“Painfully Striking” photos tell the story of the death of a protester in Cairo

by Jeremy Griffith
American Millennium Online

 

On Jan. 24 of this year, socialist protestor Shaimaa  al-Shabbagh died very publically as professional and amateur photographers and videographers documented her passing in what has been described as “painfully striking” photos.   She was only 31 years old.

 

On that day she and her colleagues and friends gathered in their office in Cairo where they planned to lay a wreath in memory of those who died in previous protests . The city of Cairo and indeed the whole nation of Egypt has been wracked with protests, many turning violent as the nation attempts to assert its identity in the midst of all the political strife and chaos. Members of the leftist Socialist People’s Alliance Party, which included Shabbagh and her friends, intended to stage a peaceful protest in a popular square in Cairo where they would sing songs and lay a memorial wreath. Their plans changed suddenly when they were confronted by security forces who allegedly fired upon them with tear gas, and birdshot. Undoubtedly, the officers intended their tactics to be “less than lethal” but intent and result are not always the same thing as regrettably, Shabbagh was fatally wounded after she was shot, point blank in the back with bird shot.

 

Photos taken at the scene by photographer Islam Osama are heart-rending, carried today via Reuters and commented upon by John Beck of Vice News in his article Anatomy of a Killing: How Shaimaa al-Shabbagh was shot dead at a Cairo protest. You can read the whole article and see the photographs here.

 

An un-named security forces Brigadier General is being blamed for giving the order to his men to fire upon the protesters. They did so with tragic result. Beck writes that the leader of the SPAP organization which organized the protest attempted to inform the brigadier of their peaceful intent and was faced with a blustering officer uninterested in their intent or their rights. While they were still speaking, the men began to open fire.

 

Friends of Shabbagh are pictured with her in these movingly sad photos attempting to extricate her from the situation. But it was to no avail. She died on the street, slumped over in a plastic lawn chair outside of a popular local cafe. A doctor arrived and pronounced her dead. Police accused of shooting her did nothing to render aid or answer the pleas for help of Shabbagh’s friends. Instead those friends were all arrested and charged with crimes, including public protest, which is apparently illegal in Egypt now.

 

Sadly I have heard nothing of this situation from other media. Isis in Iraq and Syria seem to have taken sole ownership of the airwaves and the turmoil in Egypt has been relegated to the “old news” bin at the city editor’s desk. I for one would like to see the video and more of the photos that allegedly show the moment when Shabbagh was shot. I would like to see the main stream media cover and analyze this event. Freedom of press and of people to peacefully protest in Egypt is at stake if the charges against the government are true. The government is being led by former Army General El-Sisi, who has had a good reputation up until now, since he has ousted his Muslim Brotherhood backed predecessor and taken control of the government. Incidents like this will tarnish that image if the government doesn’t respond appropriately.

 

To avoid chaos, the government has to be forthright about what happened in this incident and it cannot shift blame if the security forces deserve blame. The officer who shot the protestor should be charged and his leaders should be held accountable. And the right to freedom of expression and of peaceful protest and redress of grievances should be valued and re-established in that country, regardless of the source of that expression. A nation cannot be truly free if the people are threatened with violence for merely speaking their minds. Admittedly, we don’t do that well enough here in the land of the free so we are no good example, i.e. Ferguson. But we must support the freedom of expression, both here and abroad. The only way we can do that is to demand transparency.

 

In the meantime, artist and writer Shaima al-Shabbagh is dead and buried, and her family and friends, including a young son, morn her loss. Very sad.

 

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Magnificent: “The Square” captures the three-fold revolution of Egypt’s Tahrir Square.

By Jeremy Griffith
The American Millennium

Why Mina?! Didn’t I tell you not to go to the protests?”

‘I won’t go. I’ll do as you say, Mom!’”

But you tricked me and went and took your life away from me!”

‘If I died a martyr, Mom, would you be sad for me Mom?!’”

I’m not sad for the martyr in you, my love! But losing you hurts!

 “I’m not sad for the martyr in you, my love!”– A grieving mother following the death of her son, from an interview in the documentary, “The Square”

Khalid Abdallah, from the documentary film, "The Square"

Khalid Abdalla, from the documentary film, “The Square”

It seems in the absence of real news, I’ve taken up movie reviews. Here’s another film you should see, friends, but it is not likely to be in a theater near you. Instead go to Netflix to watch, “The Square” and bring a box of tissues.

Like Marcus Luttrell’s “Lone Survivor”, The Square is a tear-jerker worthy of your review. It is a documentary covering the lives of three individuals who partook in the revolution that started and ended in Tahrir Square, Cairo Egypt in 2011. Ahmed Hassan is from the working class neighborhood of Shobra in Cairo. He is featured prominently throughout the film as a spokesperson for the Revolution. Khalid Abdalla is a British-Egyptian actor who helps organize the protestors and uses social media to tell their story to the outside world. You may recognize Khalid from movies like The Kite Runner, United 93, and The Green Zone. Magdy Ashour is a father of four, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who befriends Ahmed. Despite their differences, Ahmed and Magdy are close, and work together during the revolution. Magdy was tortured during the Mubarak regime’s crackdown on the Brotherhood.

Magdy Ashour from the documentary, "The Square".

Magdy Ashour from the documentary, “The Square”.

Now I was in Egypt in 2008 following my deployment to Iraq. I was there as a tourist and I walked around Cairo, where even then you could cut the tension with a knife. Not far from Tahrir Square where the events of the documentary took place, in the shadow of a large Mosque, I sipped Chi Tea and listened to the call to prayer. Three young girls chatted at the table next to me, smoking a hooka together. The fragrance of the tobacco was thick and sweet. I was struck by how few people went up to the mosque when the singing started. I started filming, but my film was ruined, at least in my mind, when a street vendor accosted me to sell his worthless trinkets. Another such vendor had tricked me and picked my pocket earlier in the day, next to the Giza Pyramid, and it was only because of the police that I was able to get my money back. So when this new guy attempted to hawk his business, I would have nothing to do with him. I didn’t realize it then, but I had been first hand witness of the heavy handedness of the police and military in a brutish totalitarian regime. That event shaped the way I think of Egypt to this day. The police found the man who had taken my money, lined him up against a wall and went through his pockets, returning the cash to me. I think about that man from time to time, wondering if he is alive or dead. I wonder if our encounter gives him a sour view of my country or tourists like me. I hope not, but I wouldn’t doubt it. I have no animosity for him. He was most likely trying to support himself and his family, albeit in the wrong way. But, when you’re starving, you’ll do anything, I suppose.

Demonstrators mob a tank in Tahrir Square, Cairo Egypt

Demonstrators mob a tank in Tahrir Square, Cairo Egypt

It was because of the memories of those days that I was intrigued to find a documentary on the revolution on Netflix. I had to check it out and I’m glad I did. In 2011 things boiled over as the people of Egypt had had enough of their totalitarian government under the direction of Hosni Mubarak. Young people gathered in the square for many days and sat there, demanding the resignation of the president and the writing of a new constitution guaranteeing civil rights for all. They succeeded in toppling the government, only to bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power, and a new fascist government of Muhammad Morsi. Morsi, emboldened by his new power, seized upon his opportunity like a newly crowned Egyptian Pharaoh. His police and soldiers removed the protestors and seized power illegally, claiming the Quran as their constitution. No real constitution was written and the people went on the offensive again, retaking the square.

The documentary is an excellent one using a combination of professional film photography and cell phone video to cobble together a moving narrative of the events of those days, much of it not reported by CNN or the rest of the mainstream American media. It demonstrates masterfully how social media was used to circumvent the power of government and ultimately lead to the demise of not one or two, but three regimes in Egypt in the course of a few years. It showed the suffering of the people who lived through it and the pain of loss of families who lost loved ones in the conflagration.

It reminds me of Occupy Wall Street times ten. Violent scenes captured on cell phone cameras depict people shot down in the street by soldiers and mowed down by armored vehicles. Follow up video shows the tragic aftermath and will leave the viewer in tears.

The film is balanced from the heady joy of the participants following a victory and the shameful brutality of the government and hired thugs. The photography is beautifully done and the editing shows a keen sense for dramatic story telling. A graffiti artist tells the story magnificently through mural art and the music makes you want to march in the street.

Americans have this troubling philosophy that if it didn’t happen here, it’s not any of my concern. This horribly misplaced egocentricity blinds us and prevents us from participating on the world stage. The fact is, the United States supported Mubarak’s regime and sold him tanks and war planes, knowing he was a brutal awful dictator. The Obama administration supported the Egyptian Spring, but did nothing to foster real democracy, allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to take control through political subterfuge. Instead, the Egyptian people alone had to solve their problems, without any real help from the outside world, and continues struggle to this day. That is a shame!

Ahmed has a wonderful comment that I think illustrates the role of the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of the government in Egypt and solidifies their intent around the world. He says, “The Brotherhood is here to celebrate- and we’re here to continue the revolution. The Brotherhood buys people with oil and sugar. They mobilize people using religion!”

 “The Brotherhood is here to celebrate- and we’re here to continue the revolution. The Brotherhood buys people with oil and sugar. They mobilize people using religion!” -Ahmed Hassan

In the midst of the strife during the military crack down, someone comments, “The Army is killing us! How can they be Egyptian? They’ve forgotten Egypt!”

 “The Army is killing us! How can they be Egyptian? They’ve forgotten Egypt!” -an Egyptian citizen in Cairo

In the end of the film, Ahmed narrates, describing his role in the Egyptian Spring. He remarks, “We’re not looking for a leader. What will they bring, solutions from the heavens? Everyone who marched in Tahrir Square is a leader. What we want is a conscience.”

Ahmed Hassan, The Square

Ahmed Hassan, The Square

“We’re not looking for a leader. What will they bring, solutions from the heavens? Everyone who marched in Tahrir Square is a leader. What we want is a conscience.” -Ahmed Hassan

Every American should see this movie, and hopefully ditch the notion that what happens overseas doesn’t affect us here at home. The documentary is raw, and relevant and powerful. And the events that happened there can certainly happen anywhere, even here.

For more information on the documentary film, The Square, visit the web page at http://thesquarefilm.com/.

Watch the trailer of the movie below.

Jeremy and friends in Cairo

Jeremy, the author,  and friends in Cairo, 2008

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Obama’s firing of General Officers Demonstrates Third World Mentality

by Jeremy Griffith
American Millennium Online

The Proxy In Chief, Barack H. Obama won’t fire his loyal minions like Kathleen Sebilius or Eric Holder, because in the Liberal Progressive Worldview, you reward your friends and punish your enemies. That he is now firing top military brass demonstrates that the president is afraid of them and is displaying a Banana Republic Third World View.

 

As you may know, nine General Officers of the Army, Navy and Air Forces have been fired, some for cause some not. Some believe this a purge; Obama is merely getting rid of people he feels may be disloyal. There is speculation that there is a litmus test for the president. The Generals are a threat to him like the Generals of the Army in Egypt were a threat to Egypt’s former president, who was replaced by a military leader rather recently.

 

You may remember that the president invested a lot of hope in the Arab Spring with deposed the former president of Egypt and replaced him with a minion of the Muslim Brotherhood. Now that president has been replaced by the Army and that same Army is cracking down on the Brotherhood, to the very glad support of the Egyptian citizenry.

 

Obama must recognize this sea change, and like all Third World leaders, he is rightfully afraid. It’s too bad because the US has never acted like the Third World, until we elected Barack Obama. You see, the Generals possess something the president fundamentally lacks, leadership! You don’t get to be a General or an Admiral, especially one with four stars on your collar lest you’ve been vetted by other leaders. These are the best and brightest and each has held commands at many levels. It is only natural for someone like Barack, who’s never led anyone or even held a real job, to be intimidated by these types. That is why they are being given their walking papers.

 

There’s an analogy that I think will illustrate this. Back in the 80s there was this classic sci fi film, Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan staring Bill Shatner, Leondard Nimoy and Ricardo Monltelban. Captain James T. Kirk, Captain of the intrepid Enterprise and his loyal first officer, Spock are locked in an epic contest of wills against genetically enhanced super-genius Khan Noonian Singh! Khan has a score to settle against Kirk and steals a vessel, the Reliant, in order to exact his vengeance. Both ships are damaged in Khan’s surprise attack and in order to even the odds, Kirk orders the Enterprise into an ionized nebula. The interference of the Nebula causes force screens to lower, wrecks havoc with tactical displays and diminishes sensors. Sauce for the Goose, says Spock. The odds would be even. Each vessel blindly searches for the advantage over the other in the ghostly mist of the nebula.

 

The science officer, Mr. Spock notices something, a potential weakness. Khan is flying his ship like it was a surface vessel, displaying 2D thinking. The combatants are traveling in space, a 3D medium. Kirk uses Khan’s inexperienced mistake to get the advantage. Dropping down under the enemy ship, he gets a position behind Khan’s Reliant and lets him have it. An epic moment in sci fi history.

 

By all intents and purposes, Barack Obama is a genius, just like Khan. He’s learned his lessons well, a constitutional scholar and all that. But he really doesn’t understand or really like the constitution. He’s been trained at the feet of committed socialists and communists. He doesn’t understand or appreciate a constitutional Republic at all. That is why Obama is trapped in 2D, Third World mentality. He doesn’t know us at all.

 

If Obama is planning for a coup, firing of the Generals would do no good. They are still out there and they can still affect their influence in retirement. The Generals and Colonels behind them, after all what is a colonel but a general who hasn’t got his star yet? Were brought up through the ranks by the generals above them. All have sworn allegiance to the country and sworn to protect the Constitution, something progressives like Obama view as an obstacle of negative liberties that limits his power.

 

He’s right, the Constitution does limit his power. The president can’t do anything about the Tea Party or Congressional conservatives, so he has to attack the Generals. It’s a fruitless effort, but it does demonstrate his Third World Progressive mentality.

 

Here’s something to think about. Each of the 50 states and Porto Rico have militias. It’s called the National Guard. Each of those states and territories have a Two-Star Adjutant General at the head of them, each operating under the authority of their respect Governors. Over half of the Governors are conservative Republicans. Firing Generals at the Pentagon does Barack no good if he is worried about a coup. He should be worrying about the Governors and their respective militias. One conservative Governor, like Perry of Texas or Brewer of Arizona, could rally the states against the President and give him a very hard time, and that is what he should fear.

 

But that’s not going to happen, at least not soon. Because, we are not the Third or Developing World. We’re America and any fight we launch against the president will be a political one. The Tea Party and conservatives around the country are continuing to fight the good fight to legally pry this loser and his minions from office. With all the failures of this administration: Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the Failure of the Obamacare website and the termination of millions of insurance policies around the country, this president is damaging his party’s brand. As he serves what’s left of his lame duck term, it will be increasingly difficult for president to accomplish anything, and anyone running for the blue will have a hard time making headway when the next election comes around.

 

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