Friday, September 8, 2017

Rebellion in Egypt’s Clubs : Beyond Classism

On Thursday, Egyptian Olympic Committee “EOC” rejected a request from The Egyptian Shooting Club to hold another General assembly meeting on Friday to have a new vote on the Club’s bylaws and rules once again.

The Upper Middle class-Giza club held its general assembly meeting early August and out of 94 thousand members, only 573 attended the meeting.

As a result of failing to meet the minimum number of members eligible to vote on the famous club’s bylaws, the club would be following the guideline bylaws issued by the EOC instead of the Club’s elected board of administration’s bylaws.

An old 1950s news report in some old
Egyptian magazine about Cairo clubs 
What followed then at upscale and Upper/Upper middle classes clubs in Cairo was hysteria and panic reaching to the level of mobilization for a vote to save the “clubs’ independence and class” that some considered unjustified. Before going on with that August hysteria, I must go back a couple of months to explain what is going on.

In May, the Egyptian Parliament approved the new Sports law prepared by Egypt’s Sports and Youth ministry “Yes, we have a ministry with such name” after two years of debates and amendments.
In June, President El-Sisi ratified the Sports law aka No.71 for the year 2017.

Aside from creating a judicial body that has the power to judge sports disputes and to regulate spectators’ attendance and violations “aka a special court, not a civilian court”, the law also regulates the relation between the government or the state and sports clubs as well sports associations.

Compiled as much as it can be with the provisions of the International Olympic Charter, the law moves power and control over sports clubs and sports associations to the elected boards of those bodies themselves as well to the Olympic Committee in Egypt. The government represented in the Youth and Sports Ministry and its minister will be monitoring only the sports clubs and sports associations.

Theoretically, this is a huge improvement because now officially and legally the State has got no control on the clubs and sports associations if their General assemblies chose the official guidelines bylaws over their clubs’ bylaws.

According to the Sports law’s 4th article, the social and sports clubs got 3 months since the start of June till 31 August to adopt the new system and to have general assemblies.

There are more than 40 sports clubs in the country classified into Sports clubs, clubs owned by companies and syndicates as well clubs owned by the armed forces and police. Each one of those categories got guideline bylaws issued by the EOC.

Now in August, big clubs like the Shooting club, Gezira club and Smouha SC in Alexandria discovered that they got 30 days only to choose specific bylaws and the concerns were raised for the first time.

People began to share on Facebook the proposed guidelines bylaws of the EOC and their clubs’ own bylaws. Huge campaigns started with the call for a general assembly of the members at Cairo’s Heliopolis Club.

The members were called to attend the general assembly asap and not to do what Shooting club members had done, they should return immediately from North Coast resorts to vote and then return back to the vacations and beaches. They were giving special offers in order to show up.

I am not a member of Heliopolis Club but I was added by friends in an open Facebook group for the members.

I saw first hand what the people thought and wrote aside what was said in the social media that they were just bunch of classists who want to keep off people from lower classes from joining their private old club.
Yes, some members wanted to keep others from their club so it would not be spoiled like “any other thing in the country”.

For example, the EOC’s bylaws allowed, for example, honorary membership without any criteria “membership for army and police officers and judges” and non-university graduates to become members of the Club’s board but it is beyond that.

I read the proposed EOC guidelines bylaws and I found at least three rules that allow a government control on that club and other clubs like it.

For example, the EOC is given the right to amend the guideline bylaws as soon as they are applied immediately without returning back to the general assembly.
The General assembly’s power also in the EOC’s bylaws is limited.

On 22 August, more than 17,000 Heliopolis Club members showed up at the general assembly meeting including Current PM, Hisham Ismail himself.

It was considered the biggest general assembly meeting for the club that was found in 1910.
The majority of the members or exactly 17,273 rejected the EOC’s guideline bylaws and supported their own club bylaws. Only 42 members approved the EOC’s bylaws !!
It was some kind a victory for Heliopolis Upper Middle and Upper Class.

What happened in Heliopolis was a rehearsal for the big show at Egypt’s oldest Sports Club on the island of Zamalek.

Founded in 1882, Gezira Sports Club  “GSC” is considered from the most expensive Egyptian clubs with a long history where you can find Crème de la crème of the Egyptian society.
Following what happened in Heliopolis, the GSC members declared mobilization to save their club from a grim future if “the state” controlled it.

Buses were arranged to transfer members from North Coast resorts as well from other far away areas in Cairo like in Heliopolis and some restaurants even declared special discounts for the members.

The common theme in the angry posts for many of the GSC members was that “the guideline bylaws allowed membership without any criteria” which means that its membership would be opened for the rest of the public.

It became hysterical to the level that I found Ali, the son of sports minister Khaled Abdel Aziz posting a video on his Facebook account telling the GSC members to chill out.

Despite telling them to vote for their own club’s bylaws , Abdel Aziz defended the guideline bylines insisting that the membership would not be open to anyone as they thought.

I found also veteran actor and entertainer Samir Sabry in a rare appearance calling people to come to save the club from a grim fate like Zamalek , which is being damaged because of the Metro.

To be honest , I am not fond of a particular class or type of Gezira club members whom I cannot stand online , let alone offline “the elitists, racists and classists “.

I am not fond of the GSC administration either that loves to poison stray cats in the club from time to time but when 29 August 2017 came, the GSC members amazed everybody.

Paralyzing the streets of Zamalek, thousands of GSC members came from everywhere leaving their cars parked in queues to vote in a historical turnout for the club’s General assembly since early morning.

According to news reports, more than 18,899 registered members came and voted and 18,840 voted for the Club’s own bylaws while only 55 voted for the EOC’s bylaws. It was one hell of a defeat for the EOC and a victory for the GSC members.
Lamis and Ghada at GSC
Pro-regime TV host Lamis El-Hadidy and social solidarity minister
Ghada Wali at GSC during the assembly meeting "El-Hadidy's twitter account"
The Shooting Club members are now jealous of the Heliopolis and GSC members and so they decided to have a new General assembly meeting but as I mentioned above the EOC rejected it.

What puzzles me is how many of Gazeira club or Heliopolis club members understand very well how what the State control means “at least how I understand from their Facebook posts in the last couple of days” and how Egypt turned from bad to worse to worst since 1952 , still they support the repressive policies of the current regime against public and private freedoms.

I totally understand that we are speaking about a special socioeconomic class that panics once its safe havens are in danger.
Upper and Upper Middle-Class clubs like Gazeira or Heliopolis are among those safe havens for certain people in those classes
Personally, I believe it is extremely selfish for those classes to protect their pseudo safe havens and ignore the rest of the country.
Fairly on the same level, I believe that what happened in the past three weeks was an act of rebellion in its own way considering the current situation in Egypt and how the civil society is suffering.
The current regime in Egypt does not give a chance to any kind of assembly so to have this happens now !!
Well, God acts in a mysterious way.

Ironically, some of the proud members of those clubs claimed on Facebook claimed that their electoral victory was like the one in the "30 June revolution that ousted MB Morsi" without realizing that it actually resembled the March 2011 referendum when it comes to the turnout.

This also shows you how Egyptians can mobilize to vote if they know for sure that their vote can do a significant change.
One big difference in Tunisia that made ahead of other Arab countries in the Arab spring that it had already a strong civil society.

May be in the end, those small victories of those battles will lead the Egyptians to a triumph eventually in the war for democracy and freedom.

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