Omar Sharif Jr, the grandson of the screen icon: “I ask myself: Am I welcome in the new Egypt?”
* Omar Sharif Jr: “And so I hesitantly confess: I am half Jewish, and I am gay. That my mother is Jewish is no small disclosure when you are from Egypt, no matter the year. And being openly gay has always meant asking for trouble, but perhaps especially during this time of political and social upheaval… I write this article in fear. Fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself.”
* “While to many in Europe and North America mine might seem like trivial admissions, I am afraid this is not so in Egypt. I anticipate that I will be chastised, scorned, and most certainly threatened. From the vaunted class of Egyptian actor and personality, I might just become an Egyptian public enemy. And yet I speak out because I am a patriot.”
* Reminder: Turkish PM Erdogan, proud 2010 winner of the Gaddafi Prize for Human Rights
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1. Omar Sharif Jr: I’m gay and Jewish
2. Gallup: Egyptians want fewer ties to America, closer ties to Turkey and Iran
3. But half of Egyptians want the peace treaty with Israel to continue
4. Jewish groups repelled by use of Hitler in Turkish shampoo ad
5. Reminder: Erdogan, proud 2010 winner of the Gaddafi Prize for Human Rights
6. Israeli-made processor responsible for 40% of Intel’s 2011 global sales
7. Mossad Dubai assassination film role for Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli
8. “Coming Out” (By Omar Sharif Jr., The Advocate, April 2012)
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
OMAR SHARIF JR: I’M GAY AND JEWISH
In an article for the April 2012 edition of the gay magazine The Advocate, Omar Sharif Jr., the grandson of the world’s best known Arab film star, Egyptian screen icon Omar Sharif, has revealed that he is not only gay but also that his mother is Jewish.
Omar Sharif is famed for starring in films such as the 1965 classic Doctor Zhivago.
Omar Sharif Jr., who holds a master’s degree in comparative politics and conflict studies from the London School of Economics, three months ago moved from Egypt to Los Angeles. His article from the new edition of The Advocate is posted in full further down this dispatch. In it he discusses the fate of Egypt since President Mubarak was ousted last year. He says:
“I write this article in fear. Fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself. My parents will be shocked to read it, surely preferring I stay in the shadows and keep silent, at least for the time being. But I can’t.
“Last January, I left Egypt with a heavy heart. I traveled to America, leaving behind my family, friends, and compatriots who were in the midst of embarking on a heroic journey toward self-determination…
“The vision for a freer, more equal Egypt – a vision that many young patriots gave their lives to see realized in Tahrir Square – has been hijacked. The full spectrum of equal and human rights are now wedge issues used by both the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces and the Islamist parties, when they should be regarded as universal truths.”
On his own identity, he says: “Will being Egyptian, half Jewish, and gay forever remain mutually exclusive identities? Are they identities to be hidden?”
Omar Sharif Sn., star of the 1965 classic Doctor Zhivago
GALLUP: EGYPTIANS WANT FEWER TIES TO AMERICA, CLOSER TIES TO TURKEY AND IRAN
Through his incoherent foreign policy, President Obama appears to be “losing Egypt” according to several leading foreign policy experts.
In an extensive new poll for Gallup, the majority of Egyptians (56%) now see close relations between Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation, and the U.S. as “a bad thing”, up sharply from 40% in the previous poll conducted three months earlier.
Slightly more than one-quarter (28%) say having close relations with the U.S. is a good thing. Most Egyptians instead say they prefer closer relations with increasingly Islamist Turkey (60% good, 19% bad) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (41% good 38% bad thing). Neither Turkey, nor Iran are Arab, of course, and Arabs have traditionally been at odds with Turks and Persians.
Gallup chief pollsters Ahmed Younis and Mohamed Younis write: “The surge in Egyptian negativity documented by Gallup surveys coincides with a difficult period in U.S.-Egyptian relations. At about the same time as the survey was conducted, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces closed a series of high-profile American and Egyptian non-governmental organizations (NGOs).”
BUT HALF OF EGYPTIANS WANT THE PEACE TREATY WITH ISRAEL TO CONTINUE
Perhaps surprisingly, however, the percentage of Egyptians who view their country’s peace treaty with Israel as a good thing continues to exceed the percentage who say it is a bad thing, according to the Gallup poll.
Nearly half of Egyptians surveyed (48%) said the Israel-Egypt peace treaty is a good thing – consistent with opinion through most of the post-Hosni Mubarak era.
The full Gallup poll data is here
JEWISH GROUPS REPELLED BY USE OF HITLER IN TURKISH SHAMPOO AD
In what Jewish groups are saying is an increasing number of anti-Jewish broadcasts in both programs and adverts on Turkish TV and radio, a Turkish company has been promoting Hitler as a “real man” in a shampoo advertisement.
“Here it is, a real man’s shampoo, Biomen,” says the ad, while showing archive footage of Hitler.
About 20,000 Jews still live in Turkey, mainly in Istanbul, a city of about 14 million Muslims. Most are descendants of Sephardim who escaped the Spanish Inquisition and found refuge in the Ottoman Empire some 500 years ago.
In the past, Turkey was justifiably proud of its history as a haven for Jews, in comparison with other European countries, but since Prime Minister Erdogan came to power a decade ago, his government has presided over and encouraged an increasingly anti-Semitic atmosphere.
To the mystification of many foreign policy observers, U.S. President Barack Obama continues to grow even closer to the radical Erdogan government.
REMINDER: ERDOGAN, PROUD 2010 WINNER OF THE GADDAFI PRIZE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
For those in the West who may have forgotten who Erdogan is, here is a reminder. This is a November 2010 report from Agence France Presse:
Erdogan will be awarded the Kadhafi Human Rights Prize
Turkish PM to receive Libyan rights award
Fri Nov 26, 2010
ANKARA (AFP) – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will travel to Libya next week to receive a human rights prize dedicated to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, his office said on Friday.
Erdogan will receive the Kadhafi International Prize for Human Rights on Wednesday at a ceremony in Tripoli, where he would also attend, as a guest, an Africa-EU summit, the statement said.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela are among the previous recipients of the prize.
ISRAELI-MADE PROCESSOR RESPONSIBLE FOR 40% OF INTEL’S 2011 GLOBAL SALES
Intel, the world’s biggest maker of computer chips, continues to rely increasingly on Israeli engineering for its processors which power many if not most of the world’s computers.
Intel has four research and development centers in Israel, and also manufactures products in plants in the Israeli towns of Kiryat Gat and Jerusalem. It is the largest private sector employer in Israel, and the country’s biggest single exporter of high technology.
The company announced a few days ago that last year its Israeli branch was responsible for an incredible 40 percent of its global sales.
75 different kinds of Ultrabook computer designs now rely on Israeli-produced know-how, as do many smart phones and tablet computers.
Microsoft, Google and other high-tech giants have long had R&D plans in Israel and Apple is now reported to be opening an R&D center in Israel too.
It is not surprising that anti-Israeli activists calling on people to boycott Israel have not had much success.
MOSSAD DUBAI ASSASSINATION FILM ROLE FOR BAR REFAELI
The alleged assassination of a top Hamas bomb and rocket smuggler in a Dubai hotel in January 2010 is to be retold on the big screen with the help of Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli (pictured above).
The death of Mahmoud al Mabhouh has been widely attributed to the Israeli intelligence agency the Mossad.
No one has ever been caught for the assassination. Among past dispatches on this, please see: In global hunt for Dubai “hit men,” the trail goes cold.
I attach one article below.
[All notes above by Tom Gross]
COMING OUT STORY: WE’RE NOT IN CAIRO ANYMORE
Coming Out Story: We’re Not in Cairo Anymore
By Omar Sharif Jr.
I write this article in fear. Fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself. My parents will be shocked to read it, surely preferring I stay in the shadows and keep silent, at least for the time being.
But I can’t.
Last January, I left Egypt with a heavy heart. I traveled to America, leaving behind my family, friends, and compatriots who were in the midst of embarking on a heroic journey toward self-determination. Despite the sound of gunshots in the streets and the images of Anderson Cooper being struck repeatedly over the head on CNN, I left hopeful that I would return to find a more tolerant and equal society. While I benefited from a life of privilege being Omar Sharif’s grandson, it was always coupled with the onerous guilt that such a position might have been founded upon others’ sweat and tears.
One year since the start of the revolution, I am not as hopeful.
The troubling results of the recent parliamentary elections dealt secularists a particularly devastating blow. The vision for a freer, more equal Egypt – a vision that many young patriots gave their lives to see realized in Tahrir Square – has been hijacked. The full spectrum of equal and human rights are now wedge issues used by both the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces and the Islamist parties, when they should be regarded as universal truths.
I write this article despite the inherent risks associated because as we stand idle at what we hoped would be the pinnacle of Egyptian modern history, I worry that a fall from the top could be the most devastating. I write, with healthy respect for the dangers that may come, for fear that Egypt’s Arab Spring may be moving us backward, not forward.
And so I hesitantly confess: I am Egyptian, I am half Jewish, and I am gay.
That my mother is Jewish is no small disclosure when you are from Egypt, no matter the year. And being openly gay has always meant asking for trouble, but perhaps especially during this time of political and social upheaval. With the victories of several Islamist parties in recent elections, a conversation needs to be had and certain questions need to be raised. I ask myself: Am I welcome in the new Egypt?
Will being Egyptian, half Jewish, and gay forever remain mutually exclusive identities? Are they identities to be hidden?
While to many in Europe and North America mine might seem like trivial admissions, I am afraid this is not so in Egypt. I anticipate that I will be chastised, scorned, and most certainly threatened. From the vaunted class of Egyptian actor and personality, I might just become an Egyptian public enemy.
And yet I speak out because I am a patriot.
I am a patriot who remembers a pluralistic Egypt, where despite a lack of choice in the political sphere, society comprised a multitude of beliefs and backgrounds. I remember growing up knowing gay men and women who were quietly accepted by those around them in everyday society. The motto was simple: “Stay quiet, stay safe.” Today, too many are staying quiet as the whole of Egyptian society moves toward this monolithic entity I barely recognize.
Last month I went for an afternoon run outside my home in Cairo. It was hot, and so I removed my T-shirt. I got the strange sense someone was watching. I felt a car begin to slow behind me, and a man began to shout that I could no longer go out in the streets shirtless in the new Egypt. With reticence, I put my T-shirt on and continued to run.
Today, I write.
I write this article because there are many back home without a voice, without a face, and without an outlet. I write this article because I am not unique in Egypt and because many will suffer if a basic respect for fundamental human rights and equality is not embraced by Egypt’s new government. I write this article because as an Egyptian national newly acquainted with a land of freedom, I feel a certain privilege that I can finally express myself openly as well as artistically. I have a voice, and with it comes a responsibility to share it during this time of social and political change, no matter the risks.
I write this article as a litmus test, calling for a reaction. I challenge each of the parties elected to parliament to speak out, on the record, as to where they stand on respect for the rights of all Egyptians, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or political belief. Do religious parties speak of moderation now only to consolidate power? Show us that your true intent is not to gradually eradicate the few civil liberties and safeguards that we currently have protected by convention, if not constitution.
I write this article to understand my own position in the new Egyptian paradigm. To a greater degree, though, I want to know where my newborn sister fits, my Coptic Christian friends, and the entire list of those who seek a basic guarantee of rights affirmed just to know they can live safely in Egypt. I want to know that we are not sliding downward on a slippery slope from secular(ish) society toward Islamic fundamentalist state.
I challenge foreign governments and NGOs present in Egypt today to comment and demand answers on equal and human rights from both the leaders of the revolution and the new government. I urge them to lend the Egyptian people and any future governments the support necessary to protect those at risk and strengthen our laws so that an admission like mine is not a sentence to prison, physical harm, or worse. Lend guidance in formulating a new constitution that protects the lives and liberty of all citizens, reminding them that while I know all too well that Egypt is not ready to adopt or accept equal rights for gays, it should nonetheless be included in the discussion. We learn from the entrenchment of constitutional principles in long-established Western democracies that if a group is excluded from the outset, it could be centuries before the issue is revisited.
I write this article as an open letter to my fellow Egyptian people, mailed from many miles away, commending them on how far they have come in how short a time. We must continue to run toward, not away from, the ideals that started us down this extraordinary path. After all of this, if we pursue a national agenda that does not respect basic human rights, we are no better than the architects of tyranny, contempt, and oppression toppled throughout the Arab Spring.
I want to have a place in the new Egypt.
I write asking for my inclusion.