... in egypt

Migrants erecting fences to keep out migrants

12 Mar 2011 | 411 words | border egypt israel migration

The border between Israel and Egypt certainly counts as one of the most dangerous borders for migrants. So far the main danger for african migrants trying to enter Israel from Egypt has been the Egyptian military, which seems to be exceptionally trigger happy when faced with migrants attempting to cross the border. Photo by Ahikam Seri Seems that the Israeli government is not satisfied with the services rendered by the Egyptian Army (or they expect that a post-Mubarak military has better things to do than shoot unarmed migrants who are attempting to leave the Egyptian territory) and has started to construct a border fence designed to keep out migrants attempting to enter via Egypt.

While building border fences is not that unusual these days, it is somewhat surprising to read (in an article published by Haaretz) that the Israeli government is employing migrants who have made it across that particular border in order to build the border fence:

The government is employing Eritrean asylum seekers to help build a border fence designed to keep out other migrants seeking to enter the country from Africa via the Sinai Peninsula.

A man who gave his name as August […] had arrived in Israel five months ago. According to August, the hardest part of the journey was trekking through the African desert. Now, once the border fence along the Egyptian frontier is completed, migrants will find it even more difficult to enter the country.

August laughed when asked if he felt guilty that he was helping put up a structure designed to keep fellow Eritreans out of the country. “I have a family that remained in Eritrea,” he said. “While they would love to come here, they know the journey isn’t easy.” As August tells it, he simply has no choice but to earn a living any way he can.

While the state has legally barred its citizens from employing asylum seekers from Africa, it doesn’t enforce the ban. Months ago, the Interior Ministry’s Population Registry inserted a clause in the temporary-status visas given to asylum seekers stating that under no circumstances could they be hired.

But it is in the state’s interests for asylum seekers to support themselves financially, so it has turned a blind eye to asylum seekers who break the law – until it can finish building a large holding facility that will provide the migrants with their basic needs. Only then will the state start enforcing the no-hiring law. […]

The revolution was televised (and projected from a plastic chair)

12 Feb 2011 | 186 words | egypt photos revolution technology

As one could have expected the big picture has some impressive pictures from the events in egypt on thursday and friday. my favorite picture (love the chair) is this one showing a crowd watching Mubarak’s thursday night television address:

Also really like the mosaic tile facade of the building of state television (especially in combination with the Munthadar Al-Zahdi references) in this shot:

They also have a photo that perfectly illustrates those silly twitter/facebook revolution claims. if this picture says anything in this regard it is that the revolution was largely dependent on mobile phone chargers:

this revolution is powered by mobile phone chargers

and finally this picture clearly gives a pretty good illustration of why the army had no real choice but to side with the people (or at least not against them). which is even more true since all those people are the army’s customers.

nevertheless it should be remembered that Mubarak was an Army (or rather Air Force) man himself before he became president. In this light it might not be the best idea to lay all your eggs into the army’s basket.

All this trouble from this matchbox

29 Jan 2011 | 478 words | egypt future media revolution

When i visited Al-Jazeera back in november last year, Moeed showed me around the campus starting at the brand new Al-Jazeera English newsroom (depicted in the photo above) and ending the tour in the original Al-Jazeera newsroom that now seems to serve as a rather unorganized tape archive (this is the newsroom that features so prominently in the 2004 documentary ‘control room‘). While showing me around Moeed mentioned that Hosni Mubarak when he visited Al-Jazeera was heard to remark “All this trouble from a matchbox like this”. The guardian also mentions this remark in a 2003 piece on Al-Jazeera:

Al-Jazeera’s headquarters is pretty small. The squat, blue-roofed building in Doha is dwarfed by surrounding palm trees, satellite dishes and transmission masts. “All this trouble from a matchbox like this,” the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, once exclaimed when he arrived to take a look.

These days AL-Jazeera’s operation has certainly outgrown the shoebox that it started in and it is clearly causing Hosni Mubarak even more trouble. In fact it is probably contributing to the end of his regime while i am writing this.

As a matter of fact Al-Jazeera (English – but i assume that this is the case for their arabic channel as well) is doing an impressive job at covering the events unfolding in Egypt. This is not only true for the journalistic quality of their coverage, which as far as i can judge is really good (and if you do not want to depend on my judgement, you might have noticed that even the New York Times, which often describes Al-Jazeera as biased seems to think so as well).

I am equally (if not even more) impressed by the delivery of Al-Jazeera English. No need to have a television anymore to follow events like the ones unfolding in right now Egypt. I started following the events yesterday afternoon at the office via a mirror of the Al Jazeera English stream (the official player crashes the flash plugin in chrome for me):

al jazeera english via justin tv

Now this is not that spectacular anymore (guess it would have been 2 years ago) but being able to leave the office and continue watching the same stream on my iPhone is something that still manages to impress me (especially if you consider that they manage to keep the stream stable even though there must be enormous demand).

al jazeera english on the iphone

In fact i managed to continue watching the stream for a good part of the train journey to Eindhoven. Ironically – but not surprisingly to dutch people – the railway company failed to provide sufficient seating capacity so i ended up standing while following the events on my phone. Guess that means that we have really arrived in the 21st century where you ubiquitous access to video streams is more reliable than railway services…

Cyclorama vs. Reality

09 Jan 2009 | 434 words | egypt israel propaganda war

During my recent trip to Cairo, in we visited [on suggestion of the my barbarian crew] the 6 october (a.k.a yom kippur) war memorial that is situated in Heliopolis just off the road to the international Airport.

The memorial consists of a large circular building housing a 360 degree rotating cyclorama surrounded an open-air display off tanks, fighter-jets, artillery pieces and anti-aircraft missiles [mainly those used by the Egyptian army during the war but also a few ones captured from the Israeli army].

Apparently the memorial has been designed by North Koreans after Kim Jong Il suggested to President Mubarak that he should build a memorial commemorating the 6 october/yom kippur war between Egypt and Israel. The memorial was completed in 1989 has been open to the public ever since. It seems that it is mostly visited by Egyptian university and high-school students on mandatory excursions but it is also open to ordinary tourists. A sign at the ticket office (£E20 per person) welcomes you with the following words:

Welcome to 1973 october war panorama, enjoy spending a good time by watching 1973 october war panorama accompanied by the sound effects and music program. special shows for tourist in different languages [see the sign on flickr]

We did not get a special show and the only language available (via IR headphones) was crappy English but the the 360 degree rotating cyclorama (a cylindrical panorama is rotated around cinema style seats that are installed in the middle of the the round room) is quite impressive indeed.

The cyclorama (and the accompanying narrative) narrate the first 48 (or so hours) of the 6 october war when the Egyptian army managed to cross the Suez canal, breach the Israeli sand fortification on the Sinai side of the canal (known as the bar-lev line) and established two small bridge-heads on the Sinai peninsula that had been occupied by Israel since the 6 day war in 1968. Both the visuals and the narrative give the impression that the Egyptian Army effortlessly overcame the Israeli defenses. By conveniently focussing on the initial 2 days of the war and ignoring the rest, the memorial gives the impression (much to the delight of the egyptian visitors) that Egypt had actually won the war and defeated Israel once and for all. Meanwhile, as we were leaving the cyclorama, the ‘defeated’ Israeli air force was busy bombing the shit out of the once Egyptian-controlled Gaza strip, while the ‘victorious’ Egyptian army was busy turning away [at gunpoint] wounded Palestinians from seeking treatment in Egypt.

Scene from the 6 october war cyclorama by Sara Kolster

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: