UPDATE: Egypt’s Sisi cuts short Ethiopia visit after deadly Sinai attacks

UPDATE: Egypt’s Sisi cuts short Ethiopia visit after deadly Sinai attacks

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi cut short a visit to Ethiopia for an African Union summit on Friday, following a wave of deadly attacks in the Sinai Peninsula claimed by Islamic State’s Egyptian wing.

Sisi’s office said in a statement that Sisi, who was scheduled to address the summit, would head back to Cairo after the opening session on Friday morning.

At least 26 security personnel were killed late on Thursday in four separate attacks in North Sinai, in some of the worst anti-government violence in months.

Egypt is fighting an Islamist insurgency based in the Sinai. Hundreds of members of the security forces have been killed since the army ousted president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

The Brotherhood denies any links to the insurgents but the government makes no distinction between them.

The most active militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, changed its name to Sinai Province last year when it swore allegiance to Islamic State, the hardline Sunni militant group that has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria, drawing U.S.-led air strikes.

The attacks in the peninsula, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip, were the deadliest since 33 security personnel were killed in two attacks in October.

The week had already been a bloody one for the Arab world’s most populous nation. More than 25 people were killed at the weekend when security forces fired at protesters angered by what many perceive as a police state.

After the October attack, Egypt declared a state of emergency in the area where Sinai borders Gaza and accelerated plans to create a 500 metre (550 yard) deep buffer strip by clearing houses and trees and destroying subterranean tunnels that it says are used to smuggle arms into Sinai. Critics say the government is stoking resentment against already marginalised communities.

A crackdown on protests appears unlikely to provoke widespread unrest, though, as most Egyptians support the government’s fight against Islamist militants and crave stability.

Sisi, the former army chief who toppled Mursi, says Egypt is fighting a war on terrorism and has the support of Western and Gulf Arab allies.

Michelle Obama ‘not impressed’ by Saudi Arabia visit

Michelle Obama ‘not impressed’ by Saudi Arabia visit

The British Daily Mail pointed out that US First Lady Michelle Obama did not seem “impressed” by her visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, judging by her “grim face” as she had to step back as Saudi officials declined to shake her hand.

US President Barack Obama and his wife arrived in the country to offer condolences on the death of King Abdallah bin Abdelaziz Al Saud, and as a sign of respect for the country’s conservative values, Michelle wore a loose-fitting dress. Although she was not required to wear a head veil as a visiting Western official, some Saudis on social media criticized her for the move, as she had done so in visits to other countries.

According to the Daily Mail, Michelle’s face showed resentment during her visit to the kingdom, probably due to the laws which limit women’s rights.

During the greeting ceremony, Michele was required to step behind her husband and wait for officials to approach her, noting that some of Saudi officials did shake hands with her, while others have only gestured from afar.

The British Daily Mail compared between Obama’s clothes during her visit to India, where she wore relatively short dresses, and the loose-fitting clothing and the pants she put on in Saudi Arabia, apparently out of respect for the traditions of the country.

The Daily Mail also referred to a video that surfaced of the first lady’s visit that stirred anger among Westerners as Michelle was blurred out. The video was not, however, official Saudi TV, but a YouTube user with extremist religious views who is known to blur out women in other videos.

The newspaper also remembered Obama’s clothes during her former visits to Indonesia and the Vatican where she covered her hair and wore loose-fitting clothes as well.

Chen Yan, Blind Piano Tuner

Chen Yan, Blind Piano Tuner

You can succeed if you do your best; no matter if you are male or female, young or old, poor or rich.

Chen Yan, a girl born with weak sight and destined to be blind throughout her life, firmly believes this mantra and has struggled to overcome her difficulties for many years. Finally, she became a skilled piano tuner and opened a company named after her, providing piano tuning serves nationwide.

Every time Chen Yan tunes a new client’s piano, she tries to hide the fact that she is blind, and clients are amazed when she reveals her secret. No one believes such a skilled piano tuner could be blind!

 

Piano tuners need to have very accurate and sensitive hearing, and Chen Yan is no exception.

She can tell the value of a coin by listening to the sound of it falling on the ground. She says she could do this very early in her childhood as her grandmother trained her everyday. The blind are usually more sensitive in hearing than healthy people as they can only perceive the world through touch, hearing and smell, and Chen Yan’s hearing is even more sensitive because of her Grandma’s special training.

Chen Yan’s grandma is one of the most important people in her life. Chen Yan’s grandma kept telling her granddaughter that she was no different from anyone, and even though she was blind, she could do everything that others could do. Her Grandma’s training and education helped Chen Yan a lot and enabled her to become a piano tuner. As a blind tuner, Chen Yan has had to work harder than her fellow tuners.

The first challenge facing her everyday is the difficulty of finding her way to clients’ homes, but Chen Yan has found her own way of solving this problem.

“I would leave for clients’ homes three hours earlier when it should take only an hour to get there. If I arrived early, I would wait outside the building and go to their homes exactly on time.”

After doing this throughout her 13 years’ of work, clients familiar with Chen Yan say she works like clockwork.

Besides this, clients’ suspicion is another problem. Once a client said, on the phone that she did not want a blind piano tuner, without knowing that Chen Yan was the one who had answered the phone.

Chen Yan said nothing on the phone and went to the client’s home the next day.

Feeling satisfied with Chen Yan’s skillful work, the client said she hoped Chen Yan would tune both her pianos in the future. When Chen Yan told her she was blind, the client stood beside Chen Yan disbelieving the skilled piano tuner was blind.

“I watched her carefully when she was tuning the piano, but found nothing unusual. She tuned every string so accurately that I couldn’t believe she was blind when she told me the fact.”

Although the client was overwhelmed by Chen Yan’s wonderful piano tuning skills, she was still a little suspicious. Pianos are so complicated, how could a blind woman work with the piano so skillfully? Was she accurate? She wanted to find out and invited a friend with professional knowledge over for help.

“My friend asked me who tuned the piano and was also surprised to learn the tuner was blind, as the piano was so well tuned.”

After gaining a reputation as a qualified piano tuner, Chen Yan opened a company providing piano tuning services nationwide.

Chen Yan does not feel satisfied with her success though; she wants to learn to paint.

“I want to be the first blind painter in China. I finally got a teacher after looking for more than 30 years.”

The teacher draws while holding Chen Yan’s hand and Chen Yan repeats the action according to her memory. It seems impossible in many people’s eyes, but Chen Yan has surprised the world again with her strong will.

“My paintings now can be sold for 2,100 yuan at auctions, and I donate all the money I earn to the disabled.”

Besides drawing, Chen Yan has many other unbelievable dreams and she has been trying her best to realize all of them.

Mohamed Morsi rails against Sisi ‘coup’ at Egypt espionage trial

Mohamed Morsi rails against Sisi ‘coup’ at Egypt espionage trial

Ousted Egyptian leader gives first evidence at his trial, accusing President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi of removing him from power

Ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi gave evidence in his espionage trial for the first time on Sunday, launching into a tirade against his successor, whom he accused of removing him in a coup.

Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, was toppled by former army chief and now president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, in July 2013 after mass protests demanding the Islamist’s resignation after a year in office.

Appearing in a caged dock dressed in white prison uniform, Morsi presented his own defence for the trial in which he stands accused of espionage along with 35 others.

“I am the president, and I have not been stripped of this title,” Morsi said during his two-hour appearance in which he attacked Sisi several times without mentioning him by name.

“On 3 July [2013], I was surprised by military chiefs suspending the constitution and toppling the president: if this is not a coup, then what is?” said Morsi, whose ousting was followed by a relentless crackdown on his supporters that left hundreds dead.

Morsi also brushed off the authority of the court. “This court has no jurisdiction over me according to the law and the constitution. Gentlemen, you are not my judges and this is not my court,” he told the three-member panel.

Morsi accused Sisi of killing some of the roughly 800 protesters estimated to have died during the 2011 revolt that toppled long-time president Hosni Mubarak.

He said that during his presidency investigators had recorded statements from managers of hotels overlooking Tahrir Square, the centre of the 2011 protests, that “armed personnel from the entity headed by the leader of the coup [Sisi]” had shot demonstrators during the anti-Mubarak uprising. At the time, Sisi was the chief of military intelligence.

Months after the 2011 revolt, prosecutors filed charges against Mubarak for the deaths of protesters, but in November a court dropped the case.

Morsi is facing a separate trial for alleged involvement in the killing of opposition protesters in December 2012 when he was president, and a court is to issue its verdict in the case on 21 April. It will be the first ruling against the deposed Islamist leader.

In the espionage trial, prosecutors have accused Morsi of being part of a vast conspiracy to destabilise Egypt involving foreign powers, militant groups including Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Morsi is also facing another trial over a prison break during the 2011 revolt. He has insisted on defending himself at all his trials.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/18/mohamed-morsi-sisi-coup-egypt-espionage-trial

Egypt earnestly seeking a democracy, Sisi tells Davos

Egypt earnestly seeking a democracy, Sisi tells Davos

 

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Thursday that his country is earnestly seeking a democracy that includes all Egyptians.

Speaking to the 45th World Economic Forum in Davos, Sisi said Egyptians managed to remove “autocratic rule when it deviated from legitimacy,” in a possible reference to his predecessor, Mohamed Morsy, whom he ousted in 2013 following mass protests.

Davos conference, taking place from 21-24 January, is an opportunity to promote the Egyptian economic summit taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh in March.

Sisi stressed his eagerness to ensure representation for the youth both on the political and economic levels. “More than 50 percent of the presidency’s specialized councils are mainly [composed of] youth and women, and we are seeking to prepare the youths to occupy various state positions,” the president said, maintaining that he described as the past marginalization of the youth will not continue.

Economy

The Egyptian president appealed to world investors to work in Egypt, noting that increased investments could help resolve unemployment that afflicts millions of youths. He added that the government’s economic strategy seeks to eliminate unemployment by 2020.

“We have adopted economic measures stimulating local and foreign investors to work in Egypt,” Sisi said in his speech, adding that his government has embarked on a “wise” financial policy by gradually removing energy subsidies for the favor of low-income citizens, as well as reducing the public debt and enacting laws that secure equal opportunity for investors.

The president added that his government seeks to “increase allocations for health and education,” in addition to “resolving disputes between the state and investors” and “developing the transport infrastructure.”

Terrorism

Sisi urged more world cooperation to face terrorism whenever the phenomenon exists. “Islam, with its tolerance and sublime values, cannot be viewed through a bunch of criminal murderers,” the president said, calling upon Muslims to not to allow a minority to tarnish their history… based on incorrect interpretation of Islam. He urged the world, in the same time, to exhibit mutual respect and appreciation of faiths and sanctities.

Middle East Peace Process

The president reiterated Egypt’s bid for a Palestinian state on the lands occupied in 1967, adding that his country still adheres to the two-state solution.

“Before peace between Egypt and Israel, no one could predict peace between both states. This is the message I want to deliver to the world: if we achieve and encourage peace between Palestinians and Israelis, the regional reality will change, stability will be achieved and extremist thought will be blocked.”

 

Violence against women still prevalent in Egypt: Amnesty International

Violence against women still prevalent in Egypt: Amnesty International

An Egyptian protester hold up his hand with a slogan reading in Arabic: “Egyptian girls are a red line” during a demonstration in Cairo against sexual harassment on 12 February 2013.  (

An Egyptian protester hold up his hand with a slogan reading in Arabic: “Egyptian girls are a red line” during a demonstration in Cairo against sexual harassment on February 2013.

Recent reforms by the Egyptian government tackling sexual and gender-based violence in the country fall short of realising long-awaited justice, according to a new briefing by Amnesty International.

“‘Circles of hell’: Domestic, public and state violence against women in Egypt” documents the shortfalls in Egyptian laws. The report also covers the entrenched impunity that continues to foster a culture of routine sexual and gender-based violence, despite “some recent piecemeal reforms”.

“The reality is that women and girls in Egypt face the ever-present, lurking specter of physical and sexual violence in all facets of life. At home many are subjected to vicious beatings, aggression and abuse from spouses and relatives. In public they face incessant sexual harassment and the risk of mob attacks, when not falling prey to state officials’ violence,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International, according to a press release on Tuesday.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) defines gender-based violence as both reflecting and reinforcing inequities between men and women and compromising the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims. “It encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls and several harmful traditional practices.”

The briefing emphasises three important aspects of physical and sexual violence: sexual mob attacks; women in state custody; and domestic violence and discriminatory divorce laws.

First, the rate of public sexual assaults happening during demonstrations around Cairo’s Tahrir Square has increased in recent years. The briefing refers to the authorities’ lack of due diligence to prevent the attacks or protecting women from violence. It further alludes to Egyptian legislation criminalizing rape and other sexual assault falling short of international human rights standards.

There were at least 500 victims of sexual violence reported during the period of February 2011 to January 2014, by a group of civil society organizations. Waves of sexual assault in Tahrir Square occurred repeatedly, where recently at least 9 cases were reported during the celebrations of the inauguration of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

Second, the “deplorable treatment” of female prisoners while in state custody or upon arrest is also documented in the briefing, and third; women experiencing different forms of domestic violence.

Initiatives such as the introduction of a law criminalizing sexual harassment are mentioned in the briefing. However, the report contends these reforms have delivered very little and a more comprehensive strategy is still needed “to effectively start tackling violence and engrained discriminatory attitudes towards women”.

Charges against harassers can be made based on articles 306 (a) and 306 (b) of the Penal Code. According to the law; verbal, behavioural, phone and online sexual harassment will attract a prison sentence of six months to five years, and up to EGP 50,000 in fines. The Penal Code also contains other articles that deal with offences of public indecency.

However there are some obstacles in the way of legal redress, given that the laws “lack a good enforcement mechanism” and “they are both vague and limited in their definition of the crimes they refer to,” according to Harassmap, an initiative that attempts to end the social acceptability of sexual harassment through online and offline community mobilization.

A report issued by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) in April 2013 reveals that 99.3% of girls and women are subjected to one form or another of harassment, which confirms the spread of this phenomenon in Egypt. 82.6% of the total female respondents announced that they neither felt secure nor safe in the street, while the rate of the sense of security and safety increases in places of education, in the home, within family circle and relatives and among friends, according to the report.

Amnesty International calls, in its briefing, on authorities to deliver long-awaited comprehensive reform, and to put the issue of violence and discrimination against women at the top of the political agenda for the upcoming parliament in March.

http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2015/01/21/violence-women-still-prevalent-egypt-amnesty-international/

Egyptian Prez Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offers condolences on death of Saudi King Abdullah

Egyptian Prez Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offers condolences on death of Saudi King Abdullah

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi today expressed condolences over the death of King Abdullah, hailing him as a wise and prominent leader.

“Egyptian people won’t forget the historical contributions of King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud towards Egypt. These contributions expressed his wiseness and deep faith in Arab solidarity,” Sisi said in a statement issued early today.

Sisi has decided to cut short his visit to Davos in Switzerland to attend the royal funeral which is expected to take place today, an official source said.

 

He had been in Switzerland since Wednesday to participate in the World Economic Forum.

 

King Abdullah was a key financial supporter of Sisi’s Egypt and an ally against Islamic extremism.

 

Abdullah was the first head of state to visit Cairo after Sisi’s election win last May. The Egyptian leader in August last year reciprocated with a trip to the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah for talks with Abdullah.

Al-Sisi receives Zayed Honorary Award for future energy

Al-Sisi receives Zayed Honorary Award for future energy

Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Abdel Fattah El Sisi and General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed at the opening of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week and Zayed Future Energy Prize Awards ceremony at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre on Monday

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi received on Monday the Zayed Future Prize, an honorary award presented to him by Vice President and Dubai Governor Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid in recognition of his participation in the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) 2015.

President Al-Sisi delivered a speech at the summit’s opening.

President Al-Sisi was awarded the prize in appreciation of his efforts in the fields of using clean energy in Egypt, especially the wind and solar energy, as well as the projects which are currently being implemented in Egypt.

 

Sisi flies to Davos to attend World Economic Forum

Sisi flies to Davos to attend World Economic Forum

 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addresses the nation in a speech – Presidency Handout

CAIRO, Jan 21– Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is flying to Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday to attend the 2015 World Economic Forum, which is held from Wednesday to Saturday.

The president is accompanied by a delegation of ministers and officials including the ministers of industry and trade, finance and foreign affairs, as well as the central bank governor.

Sisi’s participation in the forum marks the first presidential participation by Egypt in 11 years. During the previous years, Egypt was represented by prime ministers, ministers and central bank governors.

Since his inauguration as president in June 2014, Sisi’s administration has largely focused on fixing Egypt’s battered economy, which has been suffering badly due to four years of political turmoil since an uprising toppled former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The forum is hosting a special session on Egypt on Thursday, when Sisi is expected to deliver a speech, according to a presidential statement.

“The special session is among the highest levels of participation in the forum,” said Presidential Spokesman Alaa Youssef in the statement, adding that such a session is only granted to a limited number of state leaders.

Sisi is also scheduled to attend a closed meeting with 52 international personalities on Friday. The meeting is held to discuss global efforts to combat violence and “extremism”, the presidential statement read.

On the sidelines of the forum, Sisi is expected to meet with heads of states including Jordan’s King Abdullah, Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Founded in 1971, the World Economic Forum is held annually to bring together political, business and academic leaders to “shape global, regional and industry agendas,” according to its website.

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Aswat Masriya