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Middle East Press ( 21 Oct 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Middle East Press On Mohammad Reza Shajarian, Ibrahim Al Abed and Israeli Protesters: New Age Islam's Selection, 21 October 2020


By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

21 October 2020

• Mohammad Reza Shajarian: When the Clocks Stopped In Iran

By Hamid Dabashi

• Ibrahim Al Abed, A Man Of All Seasons, Will Be Sorely Missed

By Shajahan Madampat

• Pro-Iran Militias A Time Bomb Al-Kadhimi Must Defuse

By Osama Al-Sharif

• Israeli Protesters’ Simple Message To Embattled Netanyahu

By Yossi Mekelberg

• Egypt's Pro-State Media Reignites Clinton Email Controversy as US Vote Nears

By Shahira Amin

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Mohammad Reza Shajarian: When the Clocks Stopped In Iran

By Hamid Dabashi

20 Oct 2020

 

A fan displays an image of the famous singer Mohammad Reza Shajarian on his phone, outside the Jam Hospital where Shajarian died at the age of 80, in Tehran Iran, October 8, 2020 [AP Photo/Vahid Salemi]

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“Khosrow-e avaz-e Iran par keshid!” “The prince of Persian music flew to heavens!”

Iran is in mourning. Mohammad Reza Shajarian has passed away. Who was he? What was his significance for Iranians?

How can I convey the depth of the pain of his loss to non-Iranians?

Think of Um Kalthum for Egyptians and the larger Arab world, think of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for Pakistan and the Indian subcontinent, think of Mercedes Sosa for Argentina and the Latin American world. Think of Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Luciano Pavarotti, think of Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone, think of Demis Roussos, Nana Mouskouri, think of Mariem Hassan in Western Sahara and Mauritania. Now add to them anyone in their company you love and admire but I have missed and bring them all together in your imagination.

For Iranians around the world, Mohammad Reza Shajarian was, as WH Auden would say, “their North, their South, their East and West, their working week and their Sunday rest, their noon, their midnight, their talk, their song.” And when he finally breathed his last sigh in a homeland he joyously loved, they turned to,

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

The voice of a nation

Mohammad Reza Shajarian, who died in Tehran on October 8 at the age of 80, became a legend in his own lifetime. He joined eternity knowing full well he was the joy and pride of his people.

When, in May 2014, Shajarian’s longtime friend and collaborator, virtuoso instrumentalist Mohammad Reza Lutfi, passed away, I detailed on these pages the manner in which they had opened up the closed doors of Persian classical music to the public at large. With the passing of Shajarian, that very global public they had crafted sat in mourning for the loss of their nightingale.

“Khosrow-e Avaz-e Iran Par Keshid!” The headlines wept the second the news of his passing hit the airwaves and social media. Iranians in and out of their homeland paused for a moment to catch their breath, realising they were a witness to history. In his music, Shajarian had connected the Constitutional revolution of 1906-1911 to the Iranian Revolution of 1977-1979, and from there to every major and minor twist of their contemporary history, and from there to eternity.

Almost instantly, mourners gathered in front of Jam Hospital where Shajarian had passed away. Someone in the crowd live-streamed it for the whole world to see. Soon, Homayoun Shajarian, his oldest son and a gifted singer in his own right, came out to plead with them to observe the public health mandates of social distancing and masking because of the coronavirus pandemic and also to tell them the body of his father would be flown to Mashhad, his birthplace in northeastern Iran, to be buried on the hallowed ground of legendary Persian poet Ferdowsi’s mausoleum. “Why not Tehran?” someone asked from the crowd.

On the surface, this was a rude thing to say to a mourning son. Obviously, it was for the family to decide where he would be buried. But that anonymous voice spoke for every Iranian around the globe to whom this is a personal as well as a public and historic loss. The man was not asking for Shajarian to not be buried in his hometown. He was asking for him to be buried in his heart.

Acknowledging this, the grief-stricken son said: “Shoma saheb aza’id” (You are the host of this mourning), and he graciously gave the symbolic body of his father to the people he loved.

Not since the passing of Abbas Kiarostami in July 2016, and before him, the passing of Ahmad Shamlou in July 2000, was such an outpouring of grief for a cultural icon so publicly on display in Iran.

For a passing moment, Shajarian in his death had re-crafted Iranians, left and right, high and low, ruling and ruled, into a nation. People from President Hassan Rouhani to former Queen Farah sent their heartfelt condolences.

But why? What had Shajarian done, what was the meaning of his name?

The sound and fury of our history

Mohammad Reza Shajarian was born on September 23, 1940, in Mashhad, Iran, to a devout Muslim family – a family that prided itself on having a number of master reciters of the Quran in it.

He turned to music at a very young age in a deeply devout environment where the human voice was sacred, a divine gift of grace, a sign of the sublimity of our origins. As his pious father did not want him to pursue a career in music, he trained in secret and assumed the pseudonym “Seyavash” – a legendary Persian prince who also had a troubled relationship with his father.

By the time he was 12, Shajarian had mastered the Persian classical repertoire, the revered and tyrannical Radif. By the late 1950s, he was singing at Radio Khorasan, and by the early 1960s, his name, his voice, his astonishing command of Persian music and his distinct and awe-inspiring vocal range had already become integral to the lives of Iranians.

Today, every Iranian can name a landmark song or record by Shajarian that for them holds the memory of a time and place they long for. For me, it is the recording in which he sang the poems of Omar Khayyam to the glorious music of Fereydun Shahbazian and recitations of Ahmad Shamlou.

That cassette, which I still have, was in my little suitcase when I left Iran for the US in 1976 as a wide-eyed college graduate. It was the very definition of home for me. I never missed Iran because I had smuggled the quintessence of my homeland in that cassette through all the borders I have crossed.

I subsequently met Shajarian in person on multiple public and private occasions, including a dinner party at a family friend’s house in London when he sang to the tar of a gifted young musician for us.

A rooted tree flowering with confidence

Much is being said today about Shajarian’s “politics”, most of it specially choreographed by the disgraceful BBC Persian, which has become the mirror image of the Seda and Sima, the official propaganda machinery of the Islamic Republic.

In every piece of news or talk show they have featured, their only and paramount concern is to denounce the ruling Islamic Republic for having mistreated Shajarian, or he having denounced their tyranny.  These are prosaic truisms that completely conceal the far more important loss of a towering figure a whole nation is now morning.  The passing of Shajarian has nothing to do with the ruling state.  Who knows or cares to remember who was the governor of Shiraz when Hafez was alive, or ruled over Anatolia when Rumi was in Konya, or over Delhi when Bidel was alive.

Iconic figures like Shajarian have transcended history. This is a gross abuse of Shajarian’s precious memory. Shajarian was not political in the ordinary sense of the term. He and his music were the quintessence of love. There was not a shred of hatred in his character. He was always with his people, and this was his “politics”.

From the Iranian revolution of 1977-1979 to the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988, through the painful days of the Green Movement, and then now when they are under the pernicious US economic sanctions. He stayed with them from the time he sang to them: “Give me my gun,” to the moment when he corrected himself and sang: “Put down your gun.”

The origin of Shajarian’s “politics” was in the poetics of his music. He was a master classicist and yet a daring and imaginative artist who took on the Radif and mastered it to overcome it. He was confident enough of his own mastery to dare the elements and cautiously but steadily pave the way for the next generation to make it their own. His efforts have resulted in the iconoclastic music of Mohsen Namjoo – a revolutionary singer influenced as much by blues and rock as Persian classicists.

It does not matter whether Shajarian did or did not approve of Namjoo – what matters is that he created a musical tradition that remains solid in its roots but enables the flowering of a treasure trove that has enriched the aesthetic imagination of an entire people.

No classicist of his generation would ever come anywhere near a poem by Nima Yushij, the iconic master of modernist poetry. When Shajarian sang Nima’s “Darvak”, we shivered with fear and ecstasy that he knew the inner musings of our souls so well. To this day, I feel uncontrollable joy remembering Shajarian’s voice sing “Qased-e ruzan abri darvak key mirasad baran?” (Oh messenger of cloudy days when will the rain come?)

If you are to listen to just one of his songs let it be him singing this glorious poem by Ali Muallem about rain to the iconic music of Master Keyhan Kalhor. It begins with simple modulations: “Rain oh clouds of spring, rain, rain on mountains and plains, rain …” until in the middle of the song where he sings with the whole pain of the history of his people in his voice: “Rain on the memories of the lovers of this land, lovers with no graves …”

Rest in peace and power, master: “Khosrow-e avaz-e Iran!”

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Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2020/10/20/mohammad-reza-shajarian-when-the-clocks-stopped-in-iran/

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Ibrahim Al Abed, A Man Of All Seasons, Will Be Sorely Missed

By Shajahan Madampat

October 20, 2020

 

In the history of the UAE's media, Al Abed had been one of the most important figures for nearly half a century.

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In the history of the UAE's media, Al Abed had been one of the most important figures for nearly half a century.

Ibrahim Al Abed was the most egalitarian person I have ever met. He treated everyone from office boys to royals with the same grace, élan and elegance. His eyes would sparkle at every opportunity to help another human being. You just bring to his attention a problem someone is facing; it would soon become his own. He would start working his phone, and not stop until a solution materialised. He was an avid reader, an inimitable raconteur, and a true citizen of the world who harbored no prejudices born of race, creed, ethnicity or nationality.

Al Abed has been a daily presence in my life over the past six years. Not a single week during this period went without us having a cup of coffee together and a conversation at least thrice. Our offices were on the same floor, almost adjacent to each other's. He was the youngest 78-year-old you could meet. He would regale his interlocutors with stories after stories, in which the characters other than him would be the icons of modern Arab history - Sheikh Zayed, other UAE leaders, Yasar Arafat, Edward Said, Mahmoud Dervish, various others heads of states, senior officials and writers.

In the history of the UAE's media, Al Abed had been one of the most important figures for nearly half a century. He had founded the country's national news agency, the Emirates News Agency (WAM), and remained its head for a very long time. Even after retirement, his close association with WAM continued in his capacity as advisor to the Chairman of National Media Council. He played a leading role in formulating the policies and legislations governing the country's media. More often than not, he preferred to take bold decisions when he had to choose between freedom of expression and erring on the side of caution. The UAE's leadership always trusted his instincts and wise counsel on such matters.

In spite of being one of the pre-eminent figures in the UAE, respected by all, Al Abed always personified humility. A natural magnetic humility that would captivate everyone he came across, irrespective of age, status and stature. It was a delight for me to witness the camaraderie between him and Peter Hellyer, another veteran of the UAE media. Al Abed and Hellyer met for the first time in Beirut in 1969, one year before I was born. Having been together ever since as close friends and shapers of the UAE's media industry, the two young old men shared a rare personal chemistry with each other. I would often join them in their jovial conversations, listening to them reminiscing the past or discussing the present.

A man with unusual political insight, Al Abed would often lament the current plight of the Arab world, but was immensely well versed in its long history that his lamentations would always end on a positive, optimistic note. He genuinely believed the UAE's moderation and tolerance was an effective antidote to the region's general proclivity for extreme views and violence. He always held that religion and culture were dynamic entities capable of adapting to the times, and abhorred static, antediluvian notions that froze people in a time warp. I tried my best to persuade him to pen an autobiography, because I thought the writing of his life also would have revealed important aspects of the evolution of the UAE from a fishing and pearling outpost into a vibrant modern nation state with people representing all shades of humanity. However, he would light-heartedly dismiss my entreaties with his characteristic self-effacing humility.

Abu Basim, as we all fondly called him, was a man of all seasons. The past and the present co-existed harmoniously in his affable personality. He taught many of us so much about the history and legacy of the UAE, a country whose dazzling transformations he had been a participant in and witness to. Until the very end, he lived a dynamic life, reaching office earlier than most, interacting with a huge number of people in person or on phone, and engaging with books and ideas with a rare passion. When anyone wanted to borrow books from his rich personal library, he would quip: "Anyone who lends books is stupid. But those who return the books are even more stupid!"

He would lend the books anyway! Beloved Abu Basim, we will miss you terribly. Rest in peace.

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A writer and cultural commentator, Shajahan Madampat works as media advisor to UAE National Media Council.

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/uae/ibrahim-al-abed-a-man-of-all-seasons-will-be-sorely-missed

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Pro-Iran Militias A Time Bomb Al-Kadhimi Must Defuse

By Osama Al-Sharif

October 20, 2020

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi is facing a pressing challenge that threatens to once again push the country into a sectarian furnace. He needs the political will and the means to isolate and neutralize tens of renegade pro-Iran militias.

Two events that took place on Saturday underlined the limited capabilities of the federal government and its military and security arms. The first was the burning of the central Baghdad offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party by loyalists of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). The second was the gruesome execution of at least eight citizens in Salahuddin province, allegedly by a pro-Iran militia. Four other victims remain unaccounted for. The kidnappings and executions in Salahuddin were said to be in retaliation for the killing a few days before of a member of a pro-Iran militia in an attack blamed on Daesh.

The massacre has focused attention on the presence of pro-Iran militias in liberated Sunni provinces and their refusal to allow tens of thousands of displaced people, mostly Sunnis, to return to their homes. This case underlines the limitations of the federal government in Baghdad in terms of extending its authority over a number of provinces that the PMU entered to clear them of Daesh terrorists between 2014 and 2017.

Since they were formed back in 2014 to help the Iraqi Army battle Daesh, some of these militias have been incorporated into the state security bodies, while others continue to act outside of government control. Numbering about 40, some have been accused of carrying out atrocities against Sunnis in liberated provinces. Most acknowledge fealty to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and were led by Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani until his January assassination in a US airstrike.

The Salahuddin massacre prompted Al-Kadhimi to visit the province in a bid to calm angry tribal leaders. “Terrorism and all criminal acts will be prosecuted under the law,” he said. But it remains to be seen if his security forces will be able to flush out the militiamen associated with Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, one of the most militant groups on the scene today with direct ties to Iran.

Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq and Kata’ib Hezbollah have been responsible for much of Iraq’s destabilization, especially after the killing of Soleimani. Both have been accused of targeting the Green Zone in Baghdad with Katyusha rockets aimed at the US Embassy there. The government has been so ineffective in protecting diplomatic and government offices that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened last month to close down the American Embassy unless the attacks are halted.

These two militant groups have stopped their attacks for now. But, driven by Iran, they continue to pose a threat to the US presence at a time when Washington is increasing its diplomatic and economic pressure on Tehran.

The attack on the Kurdistan Democratic Party office in Baghdad is said to have come after former Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari called on Al-Kadhimi to cleanse Iraq of the PMUs. But observers believe that the real reason was the agreement reached two weeks ago between the federal government and the Irbil authority to co-manage the Sinjar district, thus ending the militias’ presence and allowing thousands of mainly Yazidi refugees to return to their homes. The pro-Iran militias have been in Sinjar since 2015, refusing to allow displaced residents to return and using the district as a gateway to Syria.

But dismantling the militias is proving to be an impossible task for the Baghdad government. Last month, Iraq’s top cleric, Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, called for the disbanding of all militias, six years after urging his followers to form them in response to the threat of Daesh. But, just like its namesake in Lebanon, Kata’ib Hezbollah has become a state within a state, with its own agenda that is in line with that of Tehran.

The challenge for Al-Kadhimi now is the trust gap with his own commanders. Over the years, and especially under the rule of former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, pro-Iran activists were allowed to infiltrate the army and security bodies, in addition to holding key government ministries. Al-Kadhimi may have the political will to purge Iran loyalists from the government, but does he have the means to do it?

Any future clash between government forces and the militias will be bloody, messy and unpredictable. Failing to drive the militias out of Sunni provinces will fan the flames of sectarian violence. The irony is that a majority of Iraqis, even in Shiite provinces, are fed up with Iranian interference. Massive corruption and the abuse of state resources can be traced to pro-Iran politicians and activists.

As Al-Kadhimi ponders his options, the US also finds itself in an unenviable position. On the one hand, President Donald Trump wants to end Washington’s costly military adventure in Iraq, while on the other he does not want to abandon the country to the Iranians. This sums up Iraq’s predicament today and, after all is said and done, these militias are ticking time bombs that threaten to destroy what is left of the Iraqi state.

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Osama Al-Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1751716

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Israeli Protesters’ Simple Message To Embattled Netanyahu

By Yossi Mekelberg

October 20, 2020

An effective political and social protest movement needs a slogan that encapsulates its objective and the mood of the country. In addition, it has to be catchy and must instinctively resonate with those who take to the streets. Evidently, the slogan used by protesters calling for the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets all these criteria. “Lech” (go) — a single two-letter word in Hebrew — has become the slogan on all the protestors’ lips, banners, stickers and T-shirts across the country. There is now not even a need to mention the PM’s name, for everyone knows who the word is being addressed to.

What started as a battle cry calling for a prime minister who is on trial for corruption to resign, or at least suspend himself until the courts decide his fate, is turning into a popular movement that is airing its widespread grievances against a leader who has been in power for too long and is utterly detached from the daily realities of ordinary citizens.

President Reuven Rivlin — in a speech last week in a Knesset plenum session and in a rare act for an Israeli president — expressed his deep concerns regarding the current state of affairs in the country, capturing the general malaise of a population that has been forced into a second lockdown. He observed that, as the “(coronavirus disease) crisis deepened, so did the disagreements and the splits between us. I never imagined with what power this disunity would hit us.” If this was a more of a general observation, what followed was a stinging critique of the violent clashes between police and demonstrators and the tribalism that “is breaking out through the cracks, and accusatory fingers are pointed from one part of society to the other, one tribe to the other.”

Israeli presidents generally avoid involvement in political issues as their position is mainly ceremonial but, in the face of the deliberate disruption and anarchy spread by Netanyahu and his allies, Rivlin decided to speak out on behalf of ordinary citizens, warning that the country — and by that he meant the government — is losing its moral compass. It is not only the issue of Netanyahu remaining in office while on trial, but also his ongoing, two-year-long refusal to appoint a chief of police or approve a budget, all for his own vested political interests, that has led Israelis to protest and Rivlin to speak out.

In this unprecedented speech, Rivlin became the voice of the people. He stopped short of calling for Netanyahu to “lech,” but the word was screaming from between the lines of this address by a veteran Likud member who knows that this might be the only way to spare the country from further misery. It is Netanyahu’s complete disregard for the democratic institutions and processes, let alone the well-being of the country and its people, that is deeply disturbing, not only for the prime minister’s political rivals but also for many Likud veterans and voters who are concerned for the soul of their party and the future of their country.

Netanyahu and his close circle have by now developed a siege mentality, viciously attacking everyone who dares question their policies and the irresponsible manner in which they are handling themselves in government. They are conducting a campaign to delegitimize their political opponents, the justice system, the media and nongovernmental organizations, while portraying themselves as victims of a conspiracy to remove them from power in violation of the will of the people.

Nothing could be further from the truth, but this is a convenient distraction from the fact that they are out of their depth in dealing with the current health crisis and, even more pertinently, from their attempts to halt their leader’s trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. It is disturbing behaviour, particularly with their cynical exploitation of a catastrophic pandemic, which is depriving so many of their lives, health, livelihoods and education, all for the sake of ensuring that Netanyahu escapes justice.

However, the Netanyahu camp is showing a rapidly increasing tendency to miscalculate under pressure and underestimate the widespread anger. One obvious error of judgement was to prohibit demonstrators from protesting more than 1 km away from their homes. While the original aim was to stymie the many thousands of protesters who were gathering every week outside the prime minister’s Jerusalem residence, the unintended consequence was hundreds of smaller protests on bridges, at major road junctions, and anywhere else people could congregate within the legal distance from their homes, while also physically distancing themselves from one another to prevent the spread of the virus.

The impact of these relatively small protests has been even greater than the original demonstrations. “Lech” is now being voiced by many more people, in many more places across the country, and this is unsettling the small circle led by Netanyahu, who in the past was the master manipulator of such situations, but is now increasingly losing ground and control of those around him.

Some of his henchmen are brutes who lack the manipulative skills of their boss. Last week, Miki Zohar, who happens to be the coalition chairman, committed what can only be described as an attempt to blackmail Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, claiming that he has plenty of dirt ready to publicly dish out on Mandelblit should he continue to refuse to drop the charges against Netanyahu. And Miri Regev, a Cabinet minister with somewhat of a short fuse, completely lost her temper on a TV talk show when she screamed at presenter Eyal Berkovic and threatened to block him from being appointed manager of the national football team. Ironically, her threat and demand for an apology was in response to the former football star’s remark that Likud is behaving like an organized crime gang — a suggestion that was given much credibility by her behaviour.

Israel, as a democracy and as a society, is at a critical crossroads in its short history. It requires an able government, one with integrity, that is free of corruption, and which puts the interest of the country above the narrow political consideration — in other words, everything that the current Israeli government, and especially the man who heads it, is lacking. Therefore, “Lech Netanyahu” remains the only hope for Israel to stop a dangerous tide that is threatening to engulf a very shaky democracy and a divided society.

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Yossi Mekelberg is professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, where he is head of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program. He is also an associate fellow of the MENA Program at Chatham House. He is a regular contributor to the international written and electronic media.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1751671

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Egypt's Pro-State Media Reignites Clinton Email Controversy as US Vote Nears

By Shahira Amin

Oct 20, 2020

With US President Donald Trump trailing the Democratic presidential nominee in the polls, Cairo is contemplating the prospects of a Joe Biden electoral victory .

Biden, a former vice president under Barack Obama, has already made clear there would be “no more blank checks” for Trump's “favorite dictator,” as Trump had called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the G-7 summit in France back in 2017.

Unlike Trump, who has largely turned a blind eye to human rights violations in the region, except in Iran,  Biden has tweeted that human rights would be “at the core of our engagement” and that “nations that violate the human rights of their citizens would be held accountable.”

Biden has also criticized Egypt's crackdown on activists and human rights defenders. In a comment published via his official Twitter account in mid-July, he stated, “Arresting, torturing, and exiling activists like Sarah Hegazy and Mohamed Soltan or threatening their families is unacceptable.”

Hegazy, an LGBTQ rights activist who was detained and tortured after raising a rainbow flag at a Mashrou' Leila concert in Cairo in September 2017, committed suicide in June, apparently as a result of her suffering post-traumatic stress disorder due to her incarceration.

Soltan, a dual Egyptian-American national and former political prisoner in Egypt, has seen several of his relatives, including his father, detained in recent months. The arrests and detentions came after he filed a legal complaint against Egypt's former Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi in June, accusing him of overseeing his alleged torture while in prison.

Soltan is not the only human rights defender to suffer reprisals for his dissent. The latest case is that of Khaled el-Balshy, editor-in-chief of the independent Daarb news site — which is among hundreds of news sites blocked in Egypt — whose brother Kamal was arrested Sept. 20 in retaliation for Balshy's critical journalism, according to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.

Human Rights Watch researcher Amr Magdi told Al-Monitor by email that Sisi and other Arab leaders believe that if Trump wins, they win.

“This is not just evident in their warm welcoming words for Trump but also in financing his [previous election] campaign according to some media reports,” he said in reference to recent news reports of an investigation by US federal prosecutors into whether a state-owned Egyptian bank had pumped $10 billion into Trump's 2016 election campaign. The inconclusive probe went on three years before ending this summer.

“Threatened by the 2011 Arab Spring pro-democracy movement, Arab autocrats have sought to reverse the small, democratic gains of the uprisings in their countries,” Magdi lamented.

Magdi, however, does not expect any dramatic changes in US policy toward Egypt and the region if Biden becomes president.

“We know from the Obama era that US foreign policy vis-à-vis the Middle East was not so different” from the policy of the current US administration, he said.

Hisham Kassem, an analyst and former publisher of al-Masry al-Youm, also expressed doubt that a change in US administration would spell any real change in US Egypt policy.

“There would likely be fewer official visits between Egypt and the US and Biden may use tougher language to condemn rights abuses,” he told Al-Monitor. “But a Biden administration will, like all previous US governments, only care about safeguarding America's interests, namely the prioritization of US naval vessels through the Suez Canal and access to Egyptian airspace for US military aircraft; no American president will want to jeopardize US relations with Egypt,” he added.

Egypt's largely pro-government media has meanwhile made it crystal clear that the state has chosen to side with Trump. In recent days, the Egyptian press has brought Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's email controversy back in the spotlight. Various news sites, including state-owned Akhbar el-Youm and privately owned sites like Youm7 and others, published what they claim are “recently declassified emails” that serve as evidence of the Obama administration's alleged support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic group designated by Egypt as a terrorist organization in late 2013.

They also accuse the former US administration of “using the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news network to spread chaos in the region.” The anti-Clinton campaign is apparently intended to turn Egyptian public opinion against Biden as another former Obama administration official.

The privately owned Sada el-Balad claimed that a leaked Clinton email revealed that she visited Qatar in 2010 and met with Al Jazeera's then-director Wadah Khanfar and with the channel's board members. The authorities perceive the Arabic-language Al Jazeera channel as being biased in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood and its websites are blocked in Egypt.

Referencing another “declassified Clinton email” dated Jan. 29, 2011, and which allegedly was sent from an Al Jazeera Blackberry, the news site claimed the sender had congratulated an Obama administration official on Obama's “principled stance on Egypt.”

Obama had expressed support for the Tahrir Square protesters demanding the ouster of the Hosni Mubarak regime during the 2011 uprising. Sada El Balad interpreted the email as “part of a conspiracy to destabilize Egypt and the region,” an idea propagated by other news sites and TV talk show hosts like MBC’s Amr Diab.

The English-language news site Egypt Today stated that Clinton’s emails serve as “a reminder of a US policy that favored the Muslim Brotherhood at the expense of the Egyptian people.” In another article lambasting Cliton, it claimed that another leaked email had revealed “Clinton’s cooperation with Yemeni activist Tawakol Karman,” a staunch Muslim Brotherhood supporter who has described the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi by military-backed protests as “undemocratic.”

The articles did not specify when the alleged emails were released but the timing of the attacks on Clinton, just a few short weeks before the US election, may possibly be an attempt by some media outlets to deceive readers into thinking that the information provided in those purported emails is new. Mohamed Abul Ghar, former head of Egypt's liberal Social Democratic Party, dismissed the assaults on Clinton as “outrageous” and “an attempt to appease the government.”

Abul Ghar told Al-Monitor, “Much of the information cited as being from declassified emails is in fact bits and pieces from a batch of emails leaked in 2016 and which have been taken out of context by the media to mislead the Egyptian public. But Egyptians aren't the ones voting in the US presidential election, so who cares if the Egyptian media prefers one candidate over the other?”

Contrary to the erroneous Egyptian press reports, there are no newly leaked emails from Clinton's private server. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has in fact faced criticism from Trump over his failure to recover and release more of Clinton's emails ahead of the November election.

The Clinton email controversy dates back to the days when she served as secretary of state in the Obama administration. Clinton had used a private email server for official communications instead of the more secure State Department email accounts, a choice denounced by some members of Congress as a violation of federal law. A federal investigation that lasted several years and ended in 2019 found no deliberate mishandling of classified information, according to The Guardian.

While Clinton did acknowledge her mistake, she defended her action in a March 2015 press conference, saying she had gone “above and beyond disclosing all work-related correspondence.” She reportedly handed the State Department more than 55,000 pages of emails but deleted thousands of others on grounds they were personal. Trump has lately been pushing for the release of those emails, hoping to use them as fodder against Biden.

Meanwhile, officials are contemplating the way forward for Egypt and the region in a post-Trump era. Nabil Fahmy, a former Egyptian ambassador to the United States, told Al-Monitor, “As a global power, the US will always have an interest in the Middle East even as it pivots elsewhere. Greater self-dependence is warranted in the Middle East; Arab countries will need to manage their relations with the US efficiently but at the same time, ensure strong relations with multiple major powers so as to be able to fulfill their interests. This is crucial regardless of whether Trump or Biden is elected.”

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/10/egypt-state-media-clinton-email-biden-trump-us-elections.html

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URL:  https://newageislam.com/middle-east-press/middle-east-press-mohammad-reza/d/123213


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