Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
4 - 10 November 1999
Issue No. 454
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

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Free will, not fascism

Sir- Shortly after my arrival in Cairo I read with some concern the article "Setting fascism free" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 14-20 October). This article suggests, in rather blunt terms, that the results of the recent Austrian elections are to be considered a revival of Nazism or fascism in Austria. I, therefore, take the liberty to provide a few comments from the Austrian point of view. The parliamentary elections, which took place in Austria on 3 October 1999, are the expression of the free democratic will of the Austrian people. Austria is a stable democracy with the right of every citizen to freedom of expression along with other human rights enshrined in the constitution. It seems simply unacceptable to derive, without reference to clear facts, a revival of Nazism or fascism from a few additional per cent among Austrian voters expressing their support for the "Freedom Party" under Mr Haider.

This party, it is true, supports a restrictive immigration policy and has been heavily criticised for this attitude by the Austrian political majority.

In fact, nearly three quarters of the voters chose parties which follow a clear anti-xenophobic policy. The fact that, following the crisis in the Balkans, Austria gave shelter to some 90,000 refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina and more than 10,000 from Kosovo, of whom a considerable part are Muslims, speaks for itself.

Articles like this one, which are obviously based on poor research or copied from unqualified comments in other foreign publications may add to increasing the pressure on representatives of certain governments to make statements toward Austria which are to be regarded as interference into domestic affairs of Austria, unacceptable under international standards.

The democratic process in Austria is sufficiently established in order not to warrant foreign advice on how to deal with political attitudes unacceptable to the vast democratic majority in the country.

Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff
Ambassador of Austria

A place of one's own

Sir- An article in Al-Ahram Weekly about the excess of luxury housing on the Cairo market (21-27 October) concluded with the remark by Nabil Gohari that "it is impossible for Egyptians to buy all these new, expensive apartments" and your reporter's observation to the effect that sellers should do more marketing abroad. Presumably what is meant is simply "Egyptians living abroad" or perhaps "citizens of Arab countries". A potential market closer to home would be non-Arab foreigners resident in Egypt, many of whom would have liked to establish homes here in the past, but who for several decades were forbidden by law to own property in Egypt. It was precisely during this same period, of course, that hundreds of thousands of Egyptians were able to acquire property in Europe and America, as they still do, without suffering legal discrimination.

Some time ago there was a rumour to the effect that discriminatory legislation had finally been changed in Egypt, presumably because it was seen to be contrary to international rules of reciprocity. Unfortunately, however, no one I know or have even heard of has ever actually seen a copy of any such new legislation.

I myself have been a foreign resident in Egypt for over 30 years, but when I retire I shall pack up my books and furniture and leave forever. The reason I must do so is simply because the reality would seem to be that no non-Arab foreigner can seriously hope to establish a secure and comfortable base that is truly his/her own and in which the accumulations of a lifetime would therefore be safe.

If real estate developers and other property sellers were as concerned about lack of business as they profess to be, they might have done something to enlarge their market a bit by remedying this situation.

John Rodenbeck


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