By macleans.ca - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 0 Comments
A feature report by Michael Petrou on the dynamics at play in the streets of Cairo
Foreign correspondent Michael Petrou travelled to Egypt earlier this fall where liberal activists told him that their revolution is far from over. Petrou filed his report days before President Mohammed Morsi seized new powers in his country. In a feature report from the Nov. 26 issue, Petrou explored the ways political Islam had taken firm hold in Egypt.
Cairo’s Saladin Citadel appears to float above the heart of the Egyptian capital, a collection of seemingly impregnable battlements, towers, soaring minarets and the beetle-like domed roofs of its mosques.
Tonight its walls are bathed in pink light. In one of its courtyards, a men’s orchestra and a singer are belting out songs before a nimble-toed conductor. Young men dressed like medieval Muslim warriors, with flowing robes and wide swords on their hips, stand guard on rock platforms or mingle casually with the watching crowd. The yard is full of leather chairs; TV crews scramble to film arriving politicians. Egypt’s new government is commemorating Saladin’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1187.
“This event is to remind people of the hideous Israeli acts that are committed against Jerusalem and the Palestinians,” says Ahmed Salah, a member of the ministry of culture’s media office. Enass Omran, a young woman staffing a table for the Al-Quds International Institution, an NGO the U.S. alleges is controlled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, says the night is about more than long ago history. “Maybe,” she says, “we can enter Jerusalem again.” Continue…
By Adnan R. Khan - Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 8:20 AM - 5 Comments
Abroad, he’s drawn comparisons to the legendary Sultan Saladin. But back home, many Turks are uneasy.
It was one coup among many. On Sept. 25, after passionately arguing in favour of the Palestinians’ right to a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN General Assembly in New York, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan left with a hero in his back pocket. On board his government jet was a 1,900-year-old statue of Hercules, procured from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where it had sat, an object of ownership controversy, for nearly 30 years. Reclaiming the relic for Turkey was a symbolic act, but the 57-year-old prime minister had done what so many of his predecessors had failed to do. He brought Hercules—his head and torso at least—home to be reunited with the Greek hero’s less attractive but arguably more manly lower half, sitting forlorn and incomplete at the archaeological museum in Antalya, a city steeped in history situated on Turkey’s stunning Mediterranean coast.
In Turkey, Erdogan’s government was hailed for the statue’s return. It was not the only praise the PM had recently received. Only days earlier, during a trip to Egypt, he’d been compared to another, less mythic but equally meaningful hero, this time from Islamic history. In Cairo, frenzied crowds showered the Turkish leader with praise, calling him the “new Saladin”—a reference to the 12th-century Kurdish conqueror who wrested Jerusalem away from Christian Crusaders in 1187. Heady times—and not without reason.
By all accounts, Turkey stands at a crossroads—and Erdogan is the one finding a new direction. After pursuing a policy of “zero problems” with its neighbours, Turkey has been forced to deal with hard geopolitical realities, breaking ties with a tyrannical Syrian regime, abandoning former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak at the height of the Egyptian uprising, and freezing its historically warm relations with Israel in the aftermath of a 2010 attempt by an international aid flotilla to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, during which Israeli commandos killed nine activists, eight of them Turkish nationals.