4 - 10 July 2002
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Cartoon by Ossama Qassim
Sir- I read with disbelief 'Out of sight' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 June) and the treatment by my government of the four students Mohamed Fawzi, Tarek Shehata, Sabri Mohamed and Hisham Mohamed, who were injured recently while demonstrating peacefully. I wish you and your readers to know that I and many people with whom I have discussed this story have written to our Members of Parliament complaining about this outrage.
Yes we have a problem of illegal immigrants, but to assume these people would want to stay in the UK if they were allowed in for very vital surgery is arrogant and jingoistic.
Please be sure there are many here in the UK who do not support our government in this action, and will tell them so in no uncertain terms.
Sir- The response of his excellency the British ambassador to Cairo to your story 'Out of sight' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 June) raises a number of points that we at the Al-Nadim Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence would like to comment upon. The ambassador gives the following reasons for the embassy's refusal to grant visas to the four students who need medical attention abroad:
1. The cases of the four students are fairly mild. None of them seems to suffer from an eye injury of a serious nature that calls for their treatment in the United Kingdom.
2. The ambassador says he is astonished that Al-Ahram Weekly believed that four people could receive the same eye injuries, or that all of them were hit by rubber bullets in the face.
3. There are no visible marks consistent with eye injuries.
4. The four students are poor and have no family or financial reasons compelling them to return to Cairo.
The response is quite astounding. The ambassador has exceeded the boundaries of reason, as well as those of courtesy to the country that hosts him. This response may befit a low-level official, but not the top figure in an embassy of a major state such as the United Kingdom. The points from one to three involve a medical judgment that the ambassador is not qualified to pass. The ambassador could have consulted the medical adviser of his embassy rather than pass judgment in matters lying beyond his field of expertise. The ambassador has missed a simple point. The small pellets fired at high velocity are known to pierce the flesh without extensively damaging the skin. They could cause a small injury at the point of impact, and that injury could heal within days, while the real damage may be hidden deeper and cannot be discovered except through appropriate examinations.
The ambassador's response does not only contradict the story of the patients in question, but it also contradicts the medical opinion of five consultants who examined the students at the University Hospital in Alexandria, and issued their report according to their clinical findings and after having conducted the necessary tests.
Their opinion was that the students need sensitive surgery that would be difficult to perform in Egypt and recommended that the students be treated abroad. The ambassador's response also conflicts with the view of the medical councils that decide on the cases in which citizens are treated abroad at the government's expense.
The ambassador, in short, has insulted the students, the professors of medicine of Alexandria University, the doctors of the Health Ministry's Medical Commission, and the cabinet that approved the referral. This is quite astounding, for the first rule of diplomacy, one would assume, is to show respect to the country in which one is posted.
Besides, one does not need to be severely injured to ask for treatment abroad. The right to health care is a basic human right. It is also one of the rights mentioned in Article three of the UN International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, which was ratified by the UK government.
As for point four, in which the ambassador mentions the financial means of the four students, which point sidesteps the fact that it was the Egyptian government (and not the students) that decided that they should receive treatment in the UK and -- as the ambassador well knows -- that the costs of their travel, stay and treatment in the UK would be covered by the Egyptian government. His excellency has received the medical referral, in which it is clearly mentioned that reservations have been made with the London Bridge Hospital through the medical attaché of the Egyptian Embassy in London.
Besides, the urge to go back to one's country is not confined to family or financial commitments. There are other things, the ambassador should know, that makes one decide to return to one's country; a sense of belonging and attachment to one's own homeland, for example.
The response of his excellency the ambassador is quite amazing. It is hard to imagine, considering his knowledge and experience, that this is the best of his judgment. Therefore, we have to draw the conclusion that his refusal to grant visas to the said students betrays a prejudice against the Arabs, particularly the poor, and a bias toward students who took part in solidarity demonstrations on behalf of the Palestinian people.
As for his attempt to intimidate us by intimating that what we say "benefits Bin Laden", we must inform him that we are not impressed with such references.
Last but not least, we have no recourse, under the circumstances, but to ask other parties to arbitrate our differences with his excellency the ambassador. Therefore, we are in the process of sending the entire file, and also the ambassador's response to Al-Ahram Weekly, to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, the UK Foreign Office, the UK Parliament, and various human rights organisations.
Dr Suzanne Fayad
Al-Nadim Centre for the Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence
Weekly to daily
Sir- I am really impressed by Al-Ahram Weekly and its interesting non-traditional topics and frank articles.
But for people living abroad, they need to have this newspaper on daily basis. We need something like this to connect us with our country, considering that sometimes we can't read the Arabic-language Al-Ahram daily because we don't have Arabic windows in our software.
Ahmed Abdel-Aziz Fahmi
More than a grand idea
Sir- I have been following the reports that you have been publishing on the new global intellectual property regime, and its implications for Egypt for the past couple of years, and most recently Gamal Essam El-Din's 'The rights way to go' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 June). It seems to me that those writing about this subject, and perhaps many of the individuals they interview, have little understanding of the rationale behind intellectual property rights (IPRs) and their implications for society and the economy, particularly the reality prevalent in many developing countries like Egypt.
IPRs are temporary monopolies granted by the state for the exploitation of intellectual creations. The main rationale behind the provision of these monopolies is to encourage investments in research and development, with the aim of promoting innovation. Properly designed intellectual property systems aim to strike a balance between encouraging innovation, while simultaneously guarding against excessive monopoly privileges and hence high prices for prolonged periods.
The question then is: does Egypt's new IPRs law, which largely conforms to the WTO-TRIPS Agreement, achieve this balance? Simply stated, no. IPRs are only one element in a country's complex system of institutional arrangements that impact technological and economic performance. Three key factors must be assessed to determine whether developing countries will be capable of capturing some of the potential benefits -- or minimising some of the potential harms -- associated with stronger IPR regimes. These are the structure and capabilities of innovative firms; the scientific and technological infrastructure including universities and public research institutions; and the existence of coherent government policies which are required to facilitate a successful transition to a TRIPS- compliant regime.
Very briefly, in Egypt there is a dire need for greater research and development efforts both in private industry and public institutions. It can no longer rely on foreign technology suppliers without a genuine desire to learn and master the science and technology behind the products, and hence hampering industry to evolve from an imitative to the innovative phase. Tendencies to behave in this unproductive manner have not been the sole responsibility of industry. Egypt's extensive science and technology infrastructure is largely fragmented and offers little incentive or support for various actors to change their modus operandi. Lack of trust, poor communication and over-personal relations make improvement of the system very challenging.
Finally, government policies aimed at liberalising the economy have not taken adequate account of the weaknesses in Egypt's national system of innovation. Prominent government officials increasingly believe that the role of the government is to construct a national environment in which the efficient allocation of resources is determined by market forces. From this perspective, the government is not supposed to discriminate among industries, and hence many of the economic reforms aimed to establish a general policy framework for Egypt's entire industrial base, rather than target specific sectors.
Yet without targeting strategic sectors with various policy instruments and suitable incentives, it is unlikely that they will evolve toward greater innovation even in the presence of a strong intellectual property regime.
Before jumping to grand conclusions about the potential benefits of Egypt's new IPRs law -- other than a diminution in the prospects of trade disputes with major trading partners -- those writing about the subject should understand the rationale behind intellectual property. They should understand its really limited role in promoting research and development, foreign direct investments, trade and technology transfer given the state of other equally, if not more, important factors in the Egyptian context.
Sir- As an American reading Edward Said's article (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 June), I can only say "Wow!" I have never seen this whole complicated mess explained in just one article -- quite an achievement.
Quite a few of us are concerned about the direction -- or lack thereof -- of our president, and his fear to take on the Christian Right who see the fate of Israel tied into the second coming of Jesus Christ. But in the face of suicide bombers, we cannot see a moral reason to speak out. Non-violent resistance will change that and it will put pressure on Bush to stop seeing the Palestinian state as an issue only when he wants to invade Iraq.
Sir- There is absolutely no doubt that the real war that is being waged is against Islam. At least it is out in the open now. We can see through the lies in the media pages. And when dealing with liars, leave them to wallow in their own delusions, but remind them of the LSD-induced state incessantly.
Your articles are indicators of how intellectually depraved so-called Muslim newspapers (if they can be called that) have become. What is an 'Islamist?' You are reinforcing what the barbaric peoples -- describing themselves as 'civilised' and 'free' -- want you to believe, and here you are following them into the hole, like a lizard unaware and denigrating Muslims without compunction. Such sad state of affairs.
If you do not believe in yourself and what you are, and hence suffer from an inferiority complex, it would be less damaging if your newspaper was closed and you all went home. Appeasement is a sign of intellectual bankruptcy.
Sir- Regarding 'Reshuffling EgyptAir' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 20-26 June). I think that EgyptAir today is the result of the sincere efforts of former chairman Fahim Rayan.
If you look at EgyptAir before and after Rayan, you will notice the difference, and the Order of the Nile awarded to him by President Hosni Mubarak is an excellent symbol for all he did for EgyptAir and the Egyptian Air Force over 30 years.
Sir- I am a medical doctor living in the UK for the past 25 years, and would like to draw your attention to the fact that EgyptAir is the only airline which allows smoking during flights to and from Europe.
Despite the known harm which passive smoking causes, I know that most Egyptians smoke and my words will fall on deaf ears.
Sir- I agree with Hala Sakr's article 'Anti- smoking scores' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 June). It's a great step and a serious one towards a smoke-free society.
The biggest challenge though, is to change the way Egyptians think about cigarettes. They need to be taught in schools about the damage this killer does. A very serious campaign should be waged against the enemy number one of a healthy human being. Keep up the good work.
La Jolla, CA
Get a grip
Sir- I would like to ask J Lenihan who wrote 'Bombs and fences' in Readers' corner (Al-Ahram Weekly, 27 June-3 July), when exactly did Al- Ahram Weekly print that "Jewish children deserve death"? To lie about what a paper says, then to get angry because of your own lie is ridiculous, immature and petulant at best.
It's a shame that you're one of those paranoiacs who, upon reading a commentary that doesn't praise Israeli apartheid, gets into a tizzy and libels the entire Arab press. These crazed Zionist rants, often calling for the expulsion of all Palestinians (by the way, Israel already expelled nearly one million into Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan the first time around -- and these states did survive unlike your "prophecy" suggests), comprise the typical diatribes of bloodthirsty bigots usually sent into Arab newspapers. And by the way, the last time I checked, Iran wasn't an Arab country.
My suggestion is for you to take some Valium next time you try to pen one of your monstrosities. Maybe then you won't feel the need to promote ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Sir- It is clear that to achieve any sort of peace in the Middle East, Israel must first end its occupation of all Palestinian lands.
After President Bush's speech of 24 June, I must demand, as an American, that Israel also end its occupation of Washington.
Sir- It is so arrogant for my country and Israel to decide to give the Palestinians their own state. Over 50 years ago, the Palestinians had a state, owned homes, farmed, maintained olive groves, raised their families and educated their children in a peaceful environment. When the migration of the European Jews began with full force after World War II, Palestinians were pushed off their lands and out of their homes savagely. They became refugees in their own land.
What started out as a way to give Jews a homeland, turned into a holocaust for the Palestinians. This brutal occupation has been ongoing for 50 years, and Israel is no longer a refuge for displaced people but rather a place for Jews to have dual homes, citizenship and cheap housing at the expense of the Palestinians.
Please keep up the pressure on the US to insist on the dismantling of the illegal settlements. The US has a right to speak out against these settlements, because of the billions of US taxpayer dollars going to support the aggression against the Palestinian people.
Sir- I have so many issues with the Lyndon Larouche interview 'It's what I have to do' conducted by Mohamed Hakki (Al- Ahram Weekly, 18-24 April), that I'm not sure where to start. First and foremost, there is definitely a gulf between many in the Western world and those in the Islamic world, and the gulf is so wide that we simply cannot ignore it.
Many in America look at the Middle East and other parts of the world -- India, the Philippines and Sudan -- and see Islamic terror, non-stop attacks on Israeli citizens in the hearts of cities, glorification of "martyrdom" and passing the "martyrdom" from generation to generation. Americans also see zero elected leaders in the Middle East, little freedom of the press, women treated as second and third class citizens, and hear of students in Egypt and Saudi Arabia who are taught to hate Jews and kill them. After 11 September we hear of cheering in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Palestine, and you ask why does America hate us? We see Palestinian adults urging their children to kill themselves, and you wonder why Americans think such people are crazy?
Yet despite all of this, I don't believe that most Americans "hate" those in the Middle East. We are a generous people, very friendly and if you really got to know us, you'd see this. But we're perplexed by the behavior we see, and we certainly will hold no sympathies for those who have declared all- out war on Americans anywhere and everywhere -- as a large group of Arabs and Muslims has done. Note that the US has not declared war on Arabs or Muslims -- 19 Americans did not fly airplanes into your buildings; so, really, who hates whom?
Mr Hakki mentions that the American media is "heavily censored". Is Egypt's press freer? Does it show both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Mr Hakki, I have been reading Al-Ahram Weekly for many months now, and I have read nothing good about Israelis, about how they have suffered at the hands of Arabs, nothing about their point of view. There is only non-stop focus on the Palestinians and their suffering -- which should of course be covered in depth -- but do not claim that the Weekly or Al-Jazeera news channel cover this conflict in a balanced way. Contrast this with recent articles in The New York Times and on the television programme Nightline, where Palestinian suffering is covered fully, from the devastation in Jenin to the history of the refugee camps; but also covered is Israeli suffering and their attempts at peace with the Arabs over the past 50 years. If you look for it and do the research, you will find a true balance in coverage in the vast American media spectrum.
You also use such derisive words such as "insane", "evil" and "ignorant" to describe US policy and Americans in general. This is not a sign that you want to communicate and make nice with America; who is hurling the invective? If a proponent of American policy were to use such words, they would be called a "warmonger", "bloodthirsty" and "hateful" by the likes of Edward Said and other columnists at the Weekly.
Sir- Regarding 'A tale of two world orders' by Ayman El-Amir (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 June). Excuse US "preoccupation with its war on terror", but 3,000 innocent people were killed in one morning. How should the US react, with 'mild concern'? What would you rather call it, a "war on political-religious idealism"?
If the US is "colonial" and "extra-territorialist", show me the colonies. Where are they? Afghanistan? When the Taliban are in power, they were an "Islamic State"; now Karzai is a US puppet? By this definition, all forms of global cooperation and venture among corporations and countries underlie some "evil plot".
Jaded paranoia is what I would call this article. Perhaps Al-Ahram Weekly's editors will break the cycle of propaganda and counter-propaganda with insightful articles about real solutions, instead of vague, ridiculous suggestions that the US should stop talking and start listening. Listen to who?
D B Ross
Abou-Rizk for president
Sir- It would be a very good idea if former Senator James Abou-Rizk, 'Tax, slaughter and lies' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 June) could run for the presidency of the USA.
Trust me, the silent majority of Americans -- myself included -- will vote for him. Run Senator, run.
Pawns of war
Sir- I would like to drive your attention toward one hidden fact in the Middle East problem. Israel is seeking a war to kick the Palestinians out of the West Bank. It is not likely that Israel will start such war, but will encourage the US to do so as a part of its war on terror. At this point, Israel will take the opportunity during a massive attack against Iraq using weapons of mass destruction to hit the Palestinian territories, Iran and Syria.
Only the Arabs can change this scenario if they are willing to make sacrifices.
Letter from the Editor
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