Egypt to offer citizenship to foreigners for $400,000 — lawmakers object

Egypt has been looking to boost its finances and draw back foreign investment that fled the country after the revolution of 2011. (Shutterstock)
Updated 16 July 2018

Egypt to offer citizenship to foreigners for $400,000 — lawmakers object

  • Foreigners who make a deposit of 7 million Egyptian pounds receive the option of taking citizenship if they surrender the deposit after five years
  • The draft bill still faces a final approval by the president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi before it can become a law

CAIRO: Egypt is offering citizenship to foreigners who deposit at least 7 million Egyptian pounds ($392,000) and then hand it over to the Treasury after five years, an amendment passed by parliament on Monday said.
Egypt has been looking to boost its finances and draw back foreign investment that fled the country after the revolution of 2011, notably through a series of tough reforms tied to a $12 billion IMF loan program it began in late 2016.
Under the new law, foreigners who make a deposit of 7 million Egyptian pounds or the equivalent in foreign currency receive the option of taking citizenship if they surrender the deposit after five years.
It was not immediately clear what economic benefits a foreigner would obtain by acquiring citizenship as Egypt places few restrictions on foreign investment projects, although it does forbid foreign ownership of agricultural land and property in the Sinai peninsula, where it faces an insurgency.
“The minister of interior may grant Egyptian citizenship to all foreigners that have resided in Egypt for a period of at least five consecutive years prior to applying for naturalization,” the amendment said.
“Upon the acceptance of the naturalization request, the value of the deposit shall be transferred to the public treasury,” it said.
The head of parliament’s defense and national security committee, General Kamal Amer, said the new law compliments recent amendments to an investment act that grants incentives to foreigners to invest in the country.
He said foreigners who acquire citizenship would enjoy no political rights until after five years of citizenship and would need 10 years to be eligible for election or appointment to a representative body.
Spouses and children will not be eligible for citizenship unless they reside in Egypt, he added.
The draft bill still faces a final approval by the president, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, before it can become a law.
It has set off a storm of criticism by legislators and on social media networks.
Lawmaker Haitham el-Hariri accused the government of “selling Egyptian citizenship” when instead it should be “facilitating residency and visa procedures” for investors. Pro-government lawmaker Mustafa Bakri also rejected the bill saying that “the Egyptian citizenship is not for sale.”
Many Egyptians took to social media sites, lashing out at the draft bill which amends a 1960 law on granting citizenship and residence to foreigners. Prominent columnist Abdel-Azim Hammad suggested in a Facebook post on Sunday that the government should instead focus on “retrieving the money that was stolen and smuggled” out of Egypt, in a reference to businessmen who fled the country during its 2011 uprising.
The official MENA news agency on Monday quoted Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal also defending the bill and saying: “Some foreign residents enjoy (government) subsidies and services ... and in the end take the citizenship of another country, why not grant them Egyptian citizenship?“
Lawmaker Mohammed el-Sewidy, head of the Support Egypt Coalition, the majority block in the parliament, defended the bill. He argued that the proposed draft is “part of improving the investment climate” in Egypt.
The deliberation over the bill comes as Egypt presses ahead with a broader economic reform program that has included slashing subsidies, imposing a value-added tax and a currency flotation. The program has was designed to meet demands by the International Monetary Fund for a $12 billion bailout loan. Egypt secured the loan in 2016.
The tough austerity measures have won praise from economists and business leaders but have dealt a heavy blow to poor and middle-class Egyptians.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, the architect of the economic reforms, defended his government’s decision to slash subsidies.
El-Sisi recently said that the reforms have put Egypt on “the right track” and urged patience as they take effect.
In an address to parliament in July, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said citizens will start reaping the benefits of the reform program within two years.
Egypt’s economy is still recovering from unrest following the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

* With Reuters and AP


Artists take a stand in Lebanon’s peaceful uprising

Updated 17 November 2019

Artists take a stand in Lebanon’s peaceful uprising

  • What blankets the walls of the ongoing 'revolution' in Beirut and other cities is art
  • For the protesters, public art is a means of communicating their political message

BEIRUT: Cries were heard in the town of Khaldeh, south of Beirut, on the night of Nov. 12. They were different from the sounds that have become the background noise of the Lebanese Revolution.

A soldier had killed Alaa Abou Fakher, a local official from the Progressive Socialist Party headed by Walid Jumblatt, a political leader of Lebanon’s Druze community, marking the third death in 27 consecutive days of protests.

The killing has escalated tensions that were already running high amid a nationwide protest movement that started off as a reaction to proposed new taxes before morphing into a veritable “people power” movement.

Protesters are demanding changes to Lebanon’s sectarian system of government, calls that have prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and will likely lead to more departures.

Meanwhile, what blankets the revolution’s walls of Martyrs’ Square; the ring (the tunnel linking west Beirut to east Beirut); the ESCWA (the UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia) boundary wall; the area next to Parliament; throughout Tripoli; and in countless other places is another form of protest: Art.

“The art we were trying to express has documented almost all the incidents of the revolution so far, day by day,” said Said Fouad Mahmoud, a graffiti artist who has been practicing for 11 years. “Some people are good with speech, others with song, and we raise our voices with drawings. I drew pictures of the moments that affected me the most: The role of the female in the revolution; the guy cleaning with one leg; and the first day of the revolution, with the flag and the fire.”

Graffiti by Said Fouad Mahmoud. (Supplied)

Many of the progressive-graffiti-laden walls fall under the umbrella of Iman Nasreddine Assaf’s Art of Change initiative, which she founded in May in partnership with local Beirut-based NGO Ahla Fawda and UK-based Where There’s Walls.

“Our purpose is to promote urban art to more than just the graffiti scene in order to spread important messages throughout the community,” said Assaf. “Our revolution walls are in support of, and part of, the demonstration and revolution. They are expressing people’s pain and demands and the impact has been strong. Art is the international language that touches all.”

Art has emerged as a favored medium of the revolutionaries to convey their political message. To this end, Art of Thawra (Art of Revolution), an Instagram page, is collecting and showcasing relevant artworks produced during the 2019 protests.

“There’s been a drastic increase in street art during this revolution,” said Mahmoud. “People are trying to send messages through their paintings. The art indicates how civilized people have been during the protests and how peaceful the revolution has been until now. I hope it will remain peaceful until the end. If it does, then it means art played a major role in this revolution because art is peace in itself.”

Lebanon’s contemporary art community has issued numerous statements regarding the closures of spaces, programs and exhibitions as artists, curators, and gallerists participate in protests for non-sectarian unity. Beirut’s art community had just assembled for the Home Works event when the protests began on Oct. 17.

The message from the organizers, Ashkal Alwan, postponing the event stated: “Artistic and cultural institutions and initiatives are in no way isolated from broader civic, political, economic, and ideological context but rather shaped as a result of and in response to historical events and their repercussions.”

On Oct. 25 the Beirut Art Center sent out a similar statement: “In solidarity with and participation in the popular uprisings taking place across Lebanon against the current systems of power, we the undersigned cultural organizations and structures collectively commit to Open Strike, and call for our colleagues in the cultural sector to join us.”

Another artistic expression of solidarity is visible at leading Lebanese art dealer Saleh Barakat’s space in the Clemenceau area of Beirut. On Nov. 8 he opened a show featuring an installation by Palestinian Beirut-based artist Abdul Rahman Katanani.

Graffiti by Said Fouad Mahmoud. (Supplied)

A series of temporary abodes made using painted scrap metal and wood, and surrounded by barbed wire — much like the surroundings of the Sabra refugee camp where the artist lives — were stationed throughout the gallery.

Katanani’s immersive and precarious installation, on view until Jan. 4, asks the question: What future awaits Lebanon?

“Many are now trying to figure out a good balance between getting their work done and participating in the public upheaval,” said Basel Dalloul, founder and director of the Dalloul Foundation. “Cultural production in all its forms can and will be one of the economic drivers of a future Lebanon.”

Ayman Baalbaki, one of Lebanon’s most recognized painters, “is not involved in creating art right now,” said Barakat. “He is going to all of the protests and is completely involved in the need for political change.”

The design duo David Raffoul and Nicolas Moussallem, whose studio goes by the name David/Nicolas, said in a statement: “What’s happening today is very important for all of us Lebanese who would like a brighter and honest future where corruption is not surrounding us.

“We are trying to work but it is not easy. Right now we are focused on how we can help our country.

“On the other hand, creativity is stronger because the revolution gives you such a push.

"Most places are closed and open spontaneously. Thank goodness for social media, so that we can show what we are doing to the world.” 

Marwan Sahmarani, a Lebanese painter known for his bold abstract canvases replete with their gestural brushstrokes and vibrant coloring, noted the difficulty of working during a time of turmoil.

“It’s a disturbing moment for everyone,” he said. “There are many feelings, good and bad. I divide my time when needed between my studio and the street. But what do I paint that can be relevant now and not fall into a journalistic rendering of current events?”

Individuals in the creative scene have joined hands in camaraderie to produce several initiatives in solidarity with the protesters. One is Nour Al-Thawra, staged by Sara Beydoun, founder of Lebanese fashion house and social enterprise Sara’s Bag, and her friend Mariana Wehbe.

On the evening of Nov. 6, a group of Lebanese women gathered in Martyrs' Square, each carrying a lighted candle. “Let’s light a candle for the strength we have shown and the resilience that will never die,” wrote Beydoun on her Instagram account. “Bring a candle and your peaceful prayer and let’s combine all of our strengths to light up Martyrs’ Square.”

Beydon told Arab News: “We all want one thing — the Lebanon we dream of.”

Wehbe agreed. “Sarah and I have been on the ground since day one,” she said. “Like every Lebanese woman from this revolution, each one of us is trying to find her way to help, support and move this forward.”

The candle-bearing crowd of women, which the pair turned into a moving video that went viral, was driven by the need to create a “peaceful symbolic prayer.”

“It was a prayer for our country, for our future, for unity, no matter where you come from and what your religious beliefs are,” said Wehbe. “It is a symbol of unity and protection for love, compassion and for our home, Lebanon.”