Monday, August 19, 2013

Open Season

"الأسد ما بياكلش أولاده"

It’s open season in Egypt so if you look anything like an Islamist you better get off the streets and quick. For the first time in a long time the war in Syria is not the first headline on the news (or the second). We’ve been glued to our TV sets watching the chaos unfold as things go from bad to worse, with Aljazeera covering every possible and impossible angle there is. Of course, besides its habit of war mongering and throwing oil onto the flames, Aljazeera has the knack of being everywhere at any time and always hearing and reporting it first (false or true). Anyway, I don’t know what the ending will be like for this mess but whatever it is, it’s not coming soon. Every worst case scenario has happened. The attempts of the international community to twist the army’s arm is pretty much making everything worse. Alsisi has showed us time and again that he is not someone who gets told what to do, especially by civilians, and that he does what he says he will do no matter what the consequences. For him, its personal. He will kill every protester and MB (or anyone that looks remotely like one) that has the guts to get in his way, and no one can stop him.
The videos of unarmed civilians getting shot in the head/neck/back/abdomen are sickening. That one video of the kid standing in front of the tanks with his hands up in the air in surrender getting several bullets to his abdomen and legs is grotesque. Now images of dead and dying people are normal and not even labeled as 'graphic content' anymore. The number of deaths are nothing more than a number.
But what bothers me the most is the footage of civilians standing in rank with the army and police, with their own guns and clubs, shooting at the protesters. Actually killing people. You look at them and their looks of concentration as they point and shoot, like they’re hunting birds and the more that go down the higher the score. Like it’s open season. An army out of control is one thing. A criminal out of control and something entirely different. These people are in a situation where they are free to do what they want, and instead of getting in trouble or arrested, the law is actually on their side. And it’s not like they’re breaking and wrecking property or stealing; they are actually KILLING people.
A long time ago I read Lord ofThe Flies by William Golding. An excellent book with a very real and dangerous interpretation of life and morals and the human conscience. For those who don’t know or haven’t read it, it’s about a group of kids whose plane crashes on an island and the only adult, the pilot, dies early on. So the boys are stranded and of course start getting into fights and have to look for food and stuff. I don’t remember the details, but eventually they form into 2 teams: the good boys and the bad boys. The fights get more serious, and at one point one of the boys dies. Then another one. Then, the issue of death is not as horrifying as it is anymore, and now the boys have weapons to hunt and kill the other boys. The point of the story is that when you put a person in a situation where they have no guiding or guarding entity, like an adult for children, they tend to fall back into their natural instincts, which are either good or bad. So the boys went from regular school boys to murderers in a matter of days, which is very similar to what’s happening in Egypt now. These people who under the usual circumstances wouldn’t dare attempt what they’re doing now, now have the power and blessing to practice what their criminal instincts tell them to do. The problem with this is that you can’t stop them. It just gets worse and worse. You arm someone and give them power to do what they want, and taking back those arms and power is not as easy as you think. Pretty much the same thing that happened with the Janjaweed in Darfur.
So while no one ever did like or have compassion for the Ekhwan in Egypt, God be with them at this time where they are a free and easy target for the likes of these monsters.

Ode to #Nafeer

Everyone is talking about #Nafeer these days. It’s a pleasant surprise to see how the movement is not just still in business but is actually gaining momentum. Usually things like this are popular for a while but then sort of fade away because a) they’re exhausting, b) since it depends on volunteers they almost always have to get on with their lives/jobs/studies at some point, and c) the donations slowly trickle down then stop. But so far, #Nafeer is charging along and actually getting stronger, smarter and more organized as it builds its manpower and experience. The last number I heard was 6,000+ registered volunteers.
But the important thing is this: at no point from beginning to end did the issue of race, political commitment or religion come into question for these people. Help went out to everyone regardless of who they are. The discrimination our government has been hammering into our heads forever apparently didn’t get that deep, and that’s what’s such a relief. Of course, a couple of political parties attempted to hijack the movement and take it under their wing, but no one paid them any attention and they went away. But the fact that the millennials are actually stepping away from their laptops and smart phones and getting down in the dirt to help people who live in places they had never even heard of, and would probably never had crossed paths with in their lives hadn’t God chosen 2013 as the year of the floods; this fact alone is one to ponder. The elections couldn’t get a fraction of these people together. The #SudanRevolts almost the same, aside from the ruckus on social media sites (but zilch on the streets). When the secession happened, people complained about the map and the racism and the oil, but no one actually did anything. We’ve seen Ramadan and Shari3 Al7awadith as sporadic but regular activities that disappear with the passing of the moment. But this is the first time something like this happens, and the first time it happens from such an unlikely sector of the community that has gained a reputation for its laziness, apathy, superficial approach to life and generally gloomy future. Apparently, we were wrong about them. Probably not completely wrong, but it gives us hope for the future of this country, and that maybe things aren’t so bad after all.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rain, Rain, Go Away!


Riding home from Alshimaliya a couple of days ago we observed the aftermath of the floods around 100+km outside the capital. The road we had taken just 2 days earlier was almost unrecognizable in some areas, with electricity poles pulled clear out of the ground, trash and trees and mud everywhere, and dead animals strewn on both sides of the highway. In one area there was a sudden appearance of hundreds of camels and their riders: Arabic nomads uprooted by the water and looking for dry ground. I shudder to think what would have happen to anyone who had been on that road during the night and caught in the middle. Probably halfway to Libya (or heaven/hell) by now. The strange thing is that these areas haven’t seen so much water in years, and oases and vegetation has sprung up overnight. Wild donkeys are seen drinking from pools of water. Nomads are seen carrying simple hoes and seeds to make use of the sudden rainfall to grow what they can. It’s such a strange sight to see all that sand and dirt extending to distant mountains, with out-of-place lakes of water from flash floods scattered here and there. Makes you rethink how one being’s curse is another’s blessing, and how God takes care of ALL His beings in ways we can’t really imagine until we see.
A guy from our village who has a transport company brought all sorts of news: of an entire small village wiped out with 8 members missing, corpses from distant places appearing in front peoples’ homes drifting in the water, entire herds disappearing overnight, washed away by the floods. He told us about one farmer who owned a piece of land who had just bought 3000 SDG worth of seeds for the upcoming season, and who had heard of the possibility of floods so had driven over to the farm in the evening, told his guard to pack his small family into the car and drove them off. In the morning, there wasn’t a single brick, animal or plant left on the farm. The guard and his family would’ve been washed away as well if that farmer hadn’t had the sense and compassion to get them out in time. All that talk about the millennium floods brought back stories about ’88. One of the women said an Arab had showed up in our hometown with news of distant villages hit by torrential rains, with huge black clouds splitting in 2 and pouring out water that was like nothing anyone had seen before. He went from house to house and market to market telling the people it was coming their way and for everyone to get to higher ground while they could. Of course, our area being desert for miles except directly adjacent to the Nile where the date gardens are, no one listened to him. And when the floods came later, not a single house or family was left untouched. Walls and ceilings crashed down, valuable documents and possessions washed away, students both boys and girls in dormitories far from their families caught in the dark of the night with water pouring in from every direction were stranded. 1988 left a scar in the nation’s memory no one wanted to experience again, but 2013 makes it look like a pool party in comparison.
My homepage is full of shared updates about the worsening situation and the calls for help for the flood victims. The whole past 10 days have been about nothing else, actually. The destruction, the incompetence, the anger, and that small but solid ray of sunshine called #Nafeer, with a hashtag. The difference now is that, instead of just 2 people sharing and resharing pictures and updates, now it’s about 200+. And the content is changing as well, with news of foreign aid finally drifting in. The media seems to have woken up from its coma as well: the day before Eid I was telling my uncle about the damage and was (kind of) surprised that he didn’t have the slightest clue about what was going on. Despite the fact that he reads 3 newspapers every single day. No joke. There wasn’t a word about the floods in the Sudanese newspapers. The news on TV has changed as well, as the headlines have gone from absolutely nothing about anything, to 90% of airtime dedicated to reports of committees formed, meetings held, ministers being updated, aid being delivered, and footage of grateful citizens who talk about how everything is ‘God’s will’ and what a favour the authorities are doing them by gracing their destroyed neighbourhoods with their presence.
Anyway, its better late than never. Showing up 10 days after everything is better than not showing up at all, and anyway the worst is yet to come. All that water brings nothing but promises of disease and death, so yes, please donate whatever it is your donating because God knows those people need it, and there’s news of more raining coming. And for all those people sticking their foot in trying to take credit for a job they didn’t do, know this: the world will remember how a bunch of 7anakeesh kids rolled up their sleeves, pooled their pocket money, put their hands together and got down to business saving lives while the rest of you people pretended nothing was going on, until the embarrassment was too much to pretend any longer.
I vote #Nafeer for president.

Monday, August 5, 2013


Source: Aljazeera English
As usual, the rainy season is here with its blessings disguised as a curse. We thought this is the driest season yet, and tarawee7 after tarawee7 the people would pray for rain. And rain it did. Not just rain, but pour like there was no tomorrow. For us, living in our comfortable solid homes, it’s a source of cool air, free car wash, refreshing watering for the gardens, but also the hassle of the world outside our home which instantly drowns rendering leaving the house a nightmare. For others, however, it’s not such an equal situation. I think the only time it was this bad was during the floods on ’88 that people still talk about with horror. That was the year everyone lost something or someone. And this year is pretty much the same, if not worse. Every year the rain fills ditches and wadis and the Nile flows over, and a lot of people who insist on building their homes in flood prone areas like Khor Shambat suffer some form of damage or another. Every year, a bunch of people’s houses fall down, sometimes claiming a couple of lives or more, more often not. These places are large ditches built for the purpose of draining the rising water from the Nile during the rainy season, but many people in unplanned shanty houses build what they can there knowing the risks they face. But this year is different. This year, entire localities drowned under floods raging their way towards the Nile. People trying to escape the water were surprised on the way by water travelling by a different road, and were swept away. Families evacuating their relatives from nearby villages were caught in the middle. Stray wires and fallen down cables electrocuted entire blocks. The number I heard on the news less than an hour ago was 2,450 homes complete destroyed, 3,500+ partially. Nothing about casualties, but people are talking about around 400 from Ombada to Sharh El-neel. I'm pretty sure it's much higher than that. A friend of my friends at work lost 2 children in a second when their wall collapsed on top of them. And these are people who live in proper houses, who have cars and careers and money. So you could only imagine what’s happening to those who don’t. I don’t think they’re even counted within the number of houses destroyed by the water, because shanty straw huts aren’t exactly considered structured homes. But they’re someone’s home. Or were someone’s home.
And of course, the government is nowhere to be seen. Actually, that’s not entirely true. On the first day of the floods before things got so bad, a bunch of people in Ombada stood on the streets outside their homes make a ruckus about the overflowing ditches and drowning roads. The police showed up and beat them back into their homes; and that is exactly the only role they have played in this entire un-funny joke. We don’t need to go over the same story of the previous years, about how Alkhidir showed up on TV and promised that they are as ready as ever for the rainy season; their ditches and pipes and roads are dug and set and asphalted. The road next to our house was an asphalt once upon a time. Then they got it into their heads to dig up the sides and bury these huge pipes; a process which took about 6 months for a road that’s less than 2km long. In the process they ruined whatever road was left. The problem is that after finally burying these pipes underground, they blocked off any drainage from the road and built several structures that we assumed were to serve as the drainage access point themselves. Except that these structures are about half a meter ABOVE the level of the road and the houses. So of course, when the rain did eventually come, the water had nowhere to go. And like I said, for us its an inconvenience. For a couple of other people, its more than that. We were driving home from tarawee7 a couple of days ago and passed at least 2 cars tipped into invisible ditches that the drivers didn’t know existed because everything was covered in water. There were probably a couple of rakshas in there as well, swallowed whole.
We could go on and on about the government’s incompetence but this particular record is getting so old and predictable that I’d rather not. Talking won’t help, anyway. What would help is people getting their acts together to help those other people who are sleeping on damp grounds, in schools and mosques, surrounded by mosquitoes and dead animals and just waiting for a cholera outbreak to happen, who lost everything they own, and if lucky managed to escape the destruction with their family alive and complete. There are dozens of organizations on the ground distributing tents and food, but you can always simply deliver things yourself if you know a way to. Every little thing will help. Follow Najla's blog for regular updates and ways to donate. Check Moe Ibrahim's money drive for donation, or the Nafeer group if you can. There are contact numbers and bank accounts you can transfer money/credit to, and their offices are in Amarat for dropping off food, water, clothes, blankets, flash lights, batteries and anything else you can spare. But more importantly, they need volunteers to help with the distribution, so call your friends and head out there before 9 a.m., waldonya gabail 3ied.

 الله يعينهم ويعوضهم خير انشاءالله

 شايف الناس تنقنق بي تحت طوالي * تتهم المطر بالشر و كشف الحال
ياخواني العزاز فضلا تجاوبو سؤالي * خير ربي العجيب وللا العجيب الوالي؟

حلمنتيش الكترابي

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bora Majayaha Wala 3iris Majahjah: 3

The ultimate byrex's Facebook status following a couple of family events

Dear people of Sudan. Unlike what popular culture would like you to believe, the world does not revolve around al3iris al3iris. There are several hundred more ‘good things’ that can happen to someone which do not involve a man, a house, or an event of any kind, that you can wish to happen to us. There are several hundred more ways you can pay me back rather than ‘serving me on my wedding’. There are several hundred more days you can pray to God to see me on. Also, need I remind you that it already sucks enough seeing everyone else getting married and having children while we toil along our single (but not so bad) lives without you having to remind us of this fact every. Single. Day. It’s bad enough attending weddings of people young enough to be our own offspring without being on the receiving end of feverish prayers from you and your kind that ‘we’ll be next’. It’s bad enough trying to enjoy a dinner or occasion of any kind while dodging your over-nice attitude because you feel sorry that I’m the only single person in the room. It’s bad enough being actually excluded from events because invitations are for couples only. We know you feel sorry for us, we know you stay up all night worrying about when that day of all days will come, and we’re sorry to put you through so much stress on our behalf. But please, can’t you get over it already?
Need I remind you that there are exams to be passed? Masters degrees to be completed? Promotions at work to get? Countries to be ruled? You could wish me any one of those and many more. Trust me, they’re much more flattering, and probably more realistic. Being badgered over and over and OVER again with wishes of marital bliss (and soon) is more annoying and condescending than likely to make me happy and bring tears of gratitude and hope to my eyes. So just stop already. SERIOUSLY. Besides, if I do get married and stuffed into ‘my own house’ this Eid or the next, who’s going to be there to do all the stuff I do that no one else does because everyone else is too busy with their ‘own houses’? Are you sure you want to go there? I mean, really? Are you sure you want to lose the free help, the overnight backup, the doctor available 24/7? Are you sure you want to lose the free ride whenever you want and wherever you want to? Really? Think very carefully before you answer, because you might actually change your mind.
It is now quite clear to me and many other ‘young’ women my age why so many marriages end in divorce. Its mainly because people are driven to the edges of insanity by other people who technically have nothing to do with them, and eventually commit marital suicide by just marrying whoever the hell asks, just to get out of that unfortunate single status. Of course, married people will tell you that this is no solution at all. Rather, the questions and prayers go on to include the wishes for a ‘third member’, the wishes for the ‘third member’ to have a brother or sister, the wishes for the ‘this member’s’ graduation, the wishes for you to complete whatever studies or work you were trying to finish but couldn’t because you had the audacity to rush into marriage before finishing it, and the wishes go on for all eternity until you die. After which, if you’re lucky, they’ll wish you mercy and paradise, but will most likely be wishing that you hadn’t married that person after all.

Bari! There’s just no winning this game.