Chairman of Ghazl Mahalla sacked

Al-Ahram announced this morning that Mahmoud Gabali, the chairman of Mahalla for Spinning and Weaving, has been sacked and that workers would be given 135 days of pay. The decision, taken by the company’s board, was based on accounting inconsistencies detected by the Central Auditing Agency, a government watchdog. Apparently the audit uncovered irregularities in inventory stock, large discounts given to local traders, and other possible signs of mismanagement or corruption.

The decision appears to meet most of the pay-related demands of the workers and has been greeted with joy by those who organized the biggest strikes in decades at the factory this year. It appears the government has finally shown sense and investigated the allegations made by the workers regarding the chairman of the company. This will no doubt encourage workers elsewhere to persevere with their own demands. I am certain that Hossam, who is traveling at the moment, will follow up with more details once he gets news from his labor activist contacts.

Update: Here is an English report.

Links for November 26th

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Tahawy on Saudi Arabia treatment of women

I can’t find it online, so I am republishing below this fine op-ed by Mona al-Tahawy where she makes the obvious yet crucial point that Saudi Arabia’s medieval practices (only one manifestation of its backwards ideology) have been tolerated far too long:

Gender Apartheid
by Mona Eltahawy

NEW YORK — Once upon a time, in a country called South Africa the color of your skin determined where you lived, what jobs you were allowed, and whether you could vote or not.

Decent countries around the world fought the evil of racial apartheid by turning South Africa into a pariah state. They barred it from global events such as the Olympics. Businesses and universities boycotted South Africa, decimating its economy and adding to the isolation of the white-minority government, which finally repealed apartheid laws in 1991.

Today in a country called Saudi Arabia it is gender rather than racial apartheid that is the evil but the international community watches quietly and does nothing.

Saudi women cannot vote, cannot drive, cannot be treated in a hospital or travel without the written permission of a male guardian, cannot study the same things men do, and are barred from certain professions. Saudi women are denied many of the same rights that “Blacks” and “Coloreds” were denied in apartheid South Africa and yet the kingdom still belongs to the very same international community that kicked Pretoria out of its club.

She rightly points out that, aside from the oil reason, Saudi Arabia has been enabled by the collapse of any alternative ideology in the Arab world, with the Saudis having bought the silence (or enthusiastic support) of most other Arab regimes. As they say, RTWT.
Continue reading Tahawy on Saudi Arabia treatment of women

Links for November 25th

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al-Hurra: reality check

I just got my satellite dish repaired and was surfing the channels. I came across Rob Satloff interviewing Dennis Ross about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. So basically Satloff, head of the pro-Israel think tank WINEP, interviews Ross, former pro-Israel American diplomat who is spending his exile at… wait for it… WINEP. What channel was this? Al Hurra, where Satloff apparently has this show called “Dakhl Washington” (Inside Washington). Actually Satloff’s Arabic surprised me, although the accent is grating. But who am I to talk?

Anyway, apparently this is what I’ve been missing from not watching al-Hurra: Israeli tools. Satloff is basically a professional lobbyist, which actually makes him more bearable than Ross, who has been spreading his extremely skewed vision of Oslo / Camp David II for years, sabotaging reasonable US policy along the way, while pretending to some kind of statesman status (he is also advising both Obama and Clinton – another reason to vote Edwards if you’re a Democrat. Update: apparently Ross also advises Edwards. Oh well.) Apparently, the other regular feature on al-Hurra is Iraqi Shia propaganda, or so they say.

But really, everything that needs to be said about al-Hurra has already been said by Abu Aardvark.

Links for November 24th

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Lalami: Beyond the Veil

Beyond the Veil:

When the French government invaded Algeria, in 1830, it started a vast campaign of military “pacification,” which was quickly followed by the imposition of French laws deemed necessary for the civilizing mission to succeed. Women were crucial to that enterprise. In articles, stories and novels of the day, Algerian women were universally depicted as oppressed, and so in order for civilization truly to penetrate Algeria, the argument went, the women had to cast off their veils. General Bugeaud, who was charged with administering the territory in the 1840s, declared, “The Arabs elude us because they conceal their women from our gaze.” Algerian men, meanwhile, were perceived to be sexual predators who could not control their urges unless their womenfolk were draped in veils. Colonization would solve this by bringing the light of European civilization to Arab males, who, after a few generations of French rule, would learn to control their urges. The governor-general of Algeria remarked in 1898 that “the Arab man’s, the native Jew’s and the Arab woman’s physiology, as well as tolerance for pederasty, and typically oriental ways of procreating and relating to one another are so different from the European man’s that it is necessary to take appropriate measures.” As late as 1958, French wives of military officers, desperate to stop support for the FLN, which spearheaded the war of liberation against France, staged a symbolic “unveiling” of Algerian women at a pro-France rally in the capital of Algiers.

Decades later, millions of French citizens with ancestral roots in North Africa are being told much the same thing: in order to be French, they must “integrate” by giving up that which makes them different–Islam. The religion, however, is not regarded as a set of beliefs that adherents can adjust to suit the demands of their everyday lives but rather as an innate and unbridgeable attribute. It is easy to see how racism can take hold in such a context. During the foulard controversies, it did not appear to matter that 95 percent of French Muslims do not attend mosque, that more than 80 percent of Muslim women in France do not wear the headscarf or even that the number of schoolgirls in headscarves has never been more than a few hundred. The racist notion of innate differences between French citizens of North African origin and those of European origin defined the debate. For instance, the Lévy sisters were sometimes referred to in the press as Alma and Lila Lévy-Omari, thus making their ancestral link to North Africa (on their mother’s side) clearer to the reader.

Do read more of Leila Lalami’s excellent review of The Politics of the Veil, but the point highlighted above as always struck me as extremely important. Unfortunately, French authorities — notably Nicolas Sarkozy when he was minister of the interior — have chosen to empower religious fundamentalists and depict them as representative of the Muslim community at large.

Some thoughts on the YouTube ban

The Guardian’s Brian Whitaker has highlighted YouTube’s decision to block the Egypt torture videos page, which we recently covered. In his post Brian says points how this removes a crucial tool at the hands of bloggers to distribute and publicize cases of human rights abuses and build a campaign against Egypt’s systematic use of torture.

Reading the comments on the post, there is legitimate discussion that footage of gratuitous violence violates YouTube’s terms of use and that it may not be the most appropriate place for these videos for other reasons (since most of its content is essentially funny home videos). Fair enough. Some people suggested that rights groups should be hosting the videos, which seems like a good idea (although it might limit their reach, since way more people visit than That’s a good idea too, except that rights groups, even the big ones, don’t really have the kind of technology necessary to handle traffic spikes and maintain video databases (which I assume means buying license rights to various software, codecs, etc.)

So here’s an idea: why not encourage YouTube, Google Video and others to provide their expertise to maintain servers for activists, separately from their commercial products if necessary? This would be a great vote of confidence in web companies, especially after the fiasco of Yahoo and Google selling out to China in recent years. Don’t want their names on it? Fine. But they have technology and resources that have radically transformed the away activists can break news and mobilize international interest. So rather than sticking to just “don’t be evil,” how about some “be good”? links for November 23rd

Automatically posted links for November 23rd: links for November 22nd

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