Part 2 of this year’s look back at some of the most memorable events and images of 2013. Among the events covered in this essay (the second of a three-part photo summary of the year), massive protests in Turkey, Egypt, and elsewhere, the aftermath of a massive tornado that flattened much of Moore, Oklahoma, and Malala Yousafzai celebrates her 16th birthday with an address to the United Nations. Click here for part 1, and please come back tomorrow for part 3. The series will comprise 120 images in all. Warning, some of the photos may contain graphic or objectionable content.
December is here, and it’s time for a look back at some of the most memorable events and images of 2013. Among the events covered in this essay (the first of a three-part photo summary of the year), Americans inaugurated President Barack Obama for a second term, a 13,000 ton meteor burned up in the sky over Russia, two young men detonated bombs at the Boston Marathon, and Dennis Rodman and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un enjoyed a basketball game together in Pyongyang. Please come back tomorrow and Wednesday for parts 2 and 3. The series will comprise 120 images in all. Warning, some of the photos may contain graphic or objectionable content.
Writing to a network of followers and potential followers around the world, the Mauritanian-born cleric Sheikh Abu al-Mundhir al-Shinqiti, one of the world’s most prominent jihadi ideologues, described a religious obligation for Muslims to take up arms against the Egyptian army. “The goal of the security campaign that the tyrannical army in Egypt is directing in the Sinai is to protect Israel and its borders after jihadi groups in the Sinai became a real threat to it,” the letter, dated October 17, said. “Jihad in the Sinai is a great opportunity for you to gather and unite under a pure flag, unsullied by ignorant slogans.”
Hundreds of miles from Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt’s tumultuous revolution, the long-neglected Sinai Peninsula has become the frontline for the military’s fight against extremism. Having operated in a quasi-lawless state there for decades, jihadi groups are now finding an opportunity to ride on the coattails of discontent following the July 3 military-backed coup that ousted President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the interim government’s subsequent neutering of the organization.
Many militant groups see the Islamists’ fall from grace as justification for their claims that the creation of an Islamic state can only be achieved through violence, and not through the moderate political campaign waged by the Muslim Brotherhood following the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. In response, the military has launched an unapologetic crackdown in the Sinai in an effort to crush any group or individual that might challenge its authority or uphold the legitimacy of the now-defunct Morsi regime.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
John Kerry felt more threatened by his own administration’s partial aid “cut” to Egypt than Egypt’s generals did. Or so it seemed. In a visit to Cairo on November 3, America’s top diplomat insisted that the “aid issue is a very small issue,” as if to tell Egyptians not to worry—that it was something the U.S. had to do against its will, and that this slap on the wrist, like all the previous ones, too, would pass.
What was more concerning, however, was that Kerry felt the need to heap an inordinate amount of praise on Egypt’s military rulers, suggesting either a great deal of cynicism or the possibility that he hadn’t been briefed on Egyptian politics for weeks on end. “The roadmap is being carried out to the best of our perception,” Kerry said, referring to the military’s timetable for drafting a constitution and holding elections. “The roadmap [is moving] in the direction that everybody has been hoping for,” he added. In reality, Egypt, on almost any conceivable political indicator, is more repressive today than it was under the Mubarak regime. The sheer ferocity of the post-coup crackdown continues, with a slate of repressive laws recently announced in the guise of Egypt’s “war on terrorism.”
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Secretary of State John Kerry stumbled into a hornet’s nest with the Egypt slice of his 11-day trip to the Middle East and North Africa.
Someone should have advised Kerry that it’s simply too soon for a Scowcroft-goes-to-China maneuver—the tactic made famous by President George H.W. Bush’s efforts to get U.S.-China relations back on track after the Chinese regime’s bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square.
During his visit to Cairo on Sunday, which included a meeting with Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Kerry said nothing about the upcoming trial of the coup-ousted Mohammed Morsi, which began on Monday. In sending a message to Egypt’s military overlord that U.S.-Egypt strategic relations are vital and that America wants Egypt back in its fold, the secretary could be fueling the rise of another Mubarak, with enormous consequences for whether young Egyptians, whose ranks are swelling, choose violence or democratic methods to realize their collective goals.
Regrettably, it’s increasingly in vogue for some Egypt analysts to say that if a national election were held tomorrow, al-Sisi would win overwhelmingly.
Read more. [Image: Jason Reed/Reuters]
There is zero chance he gets acquitted.
Forget the protests. Forget the procedural twists and turns. That’s all you need to know about deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s trial, which began on Monday in a heavily fortified police academy just outside of Cairo. Its outcome is a foregone conclusion—the product of a process whose sole goal is polishing the uprising-cum-coup that ousted Morsi this summer with a legalistic sheen.
That’s not to say that Morsi would be found innocent in a fairer court.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Amid Egypt’s ongoing political turmoil, there is another, tech-ier revolution afoot: the birth of Cairo’s start-up culture.
Young entrepreneurs there have created everything from taxi calling services to portable solar water desalination companies, and everything in between.
Despite Egypt’s recent struggles, there is hope among those in the start-up crowd, says Mohamed Radwan, an Egyptian-American engineer and activist who is now community manager for ice cairo, a co-working space, fabrication lab, and “pre-incubator” for green-tech startups.
“Before the revolution, those who wanted to change things channeled their energy into the NGO scene,” he says. “Now, people are starting to look at the private sector. Entrepreneurs are trying to fix the same problems in a different way.”
Entrepreneurship itself is not a new concept here, although the term for it in Arabic, Reyada Al Amael (literally pioneer of business), was coined only a few years ago. But it is something that has recently taken on a new dimension.
“We had entrepreneurship before the revolution,” says Ahmed Alfi, CEO of Sawari Ventures, a venture capital firm, who has personally invested over $5 million of his own fortune in growing Egypt’s tech startup scene. “The revolution accelerated it, by giving a sense of optimism.”
It also attracted the Egyptian diaspora around the globe — and their money, skills, and experience — back to Egypt, creating a supportive ecosystem.
Read more. [Image: Jonathan Kalan]
Astute observers of recent pro-Morsi protests in Egypt will note a new symbol cropping up in photos of the protesting crowds: Demonstrators are now holding four fingers in the air. Many carry yellow posters emblazoned with the same gesture.
This new hand sign refers to the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, the site of a violent confrontation between Morsi’s followers and the Egyptian army. Reported deaths from the clash range from hundreds to thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters. In Arabic, “Rabba” means “four” or “the fourth;” hence the new Rabaa symbol.
The new hand sign is important because it signals both a conscious shift in the Muslim Brotherhood’s focus from a global audience to an Arabic one and a rejection of the ideals of the Arab Spring.
The Rabaa replaced a more recognizable sign in the Arab world: the two-fingered “V for Victory” salute, a gesture that transcends language and nationality. Many Americans know of the V as the peace sign after its widespread use by the anti-war and counterculture movements of the late 1960s and 1970s. Invented by the BBC in World War II as a pan-Allied propaganda campaign — think a cigar-smoking, pinstripe-wearing Winston Churchill flashing the V and a grin — the sign came to the Arab world when Yasser Arafat popularized it in 1969. To this day, Palestinians have exhibited a two-fingered V upon their release from Israeli jails, and the sign is well represented at rallies in Gaza.
Read more. [Image: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]
It’s been almost a month since Egyptian security forces brutally dispersed the Muslim Brotherhood protest camps, and Cairo’s physical scars have mostly healed.
At Nahda Square, the site of the smaller of the two pro-Morsi “sit-in” protests, only the blackened palm trees and scorched lawns tell the tale of the ferocity of the police assault, which killed at least 90 people.
Life for many of Cairo’s almost 20 million inhabitants is very slowly returning to normal, but for those caught in the crossfire of Egypt’s domestic tumult, President Morsi’s overthrow has left an indelible stain.
The past few months have seen Cairo morph into a hub for conspiracy theories, with both warring Islamist and Nationalist factions taking turns to identify and vilify various foreigners as the source of Egypt’s woes.
Egypt has a weakness for conspiracy theories — 75 percent of Egyptians polled by Pew in 2011 said they didn’t believe Arabs were responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
But what makes Egypt’s most recent flirtation with conspiracy hysteria particularly troubling is the consequences it’s having for the affected parties and communities.
In a cruel twist of fate, Syrians in Egypt, most of whom are recently arrived refugees, have been hit hardest by burgeoning xenophobic sentiment.
Read more. [Image: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]
The toppling of Mohammed Morsi in Egypt was a major setback for Qatar. The uber-wealthy Gulf emirate had pumped billions of dollars into Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government, only to watch it fall to the Egyptian military seemingly overnight. Within days, Qatar’s Saudi rivals swooped in, declaring support for the military’s fight against “terrorism and extremism" and pledging $5 billion in aid.
The Saudis are the Gulf’s traditional power brokers, and they have been waiting for this moment. They were left in the dust in 2011, when their longtime ally Hosni Mubarak was toppled. Qatar, a country with longstanding antipathy for the Saudis, gave the Brotherhood a seemingly endless line of credit to inflate Morsi’s popularity and let him ignore the need for economic reforms that would have prompted unpopular austerity measures. When Brotherhood movements began rising across the region, the Saudis appeared to have lost the race.
But Saudi patience has paid off. In a Middle Eastern version of Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare, the Saudis have regained regional influence while the ambitious Qataris overextended themselves and then lost steam.
Read more. [Image: Michael Dalder/Reuters]