Ten years of Watani International
As 2011 draws to a close, we find ourselves up to our ears in the reverberations of the 25 January Revolution. Clashes between the revolutionaries and the authorities are incessant, the bloody showdowns every now and then leading to unanswered questions on who is behind the confrontations, whether the real revolutionaries or infiltrators who seek to abort the revolution. The last episode in this tragedy was the recent battle in front of the Cabinet building, which took place to the backdrop of historic parliamentary elections, and which today risks hampering and confounding these elections.
This year saw us out of breath as we strove to cope with the whirlwind of events which engulfed Egypt. New Year Eve witnessed the monstrous bombing at the Church of the Two Saints in Alexandria, which killed some 23 and left more than 90 dismembered and injured. Before the culprits could be revealed or brought to justice, the revolution broke out on 25 January and brought down the Mubarak regime and its mighty security apparatus on 11 February. Ever since, events have moved at a staggering pace. The various political forces in the country strove to gain a foothold on the political landscape, and debate has raged over the schedule and details of the transitional period that should lead to a democratic civil state, a new constitution and the election of a civilian president. We are now set to bid farewell to 2011, but the picture remains obscure, with too many unanswered questions, fears, and grave challenges to what the future holds for Egypt.
Amid—and owing to—all the turmoil, I hope Watani International can excuse us for failing to mark its 10th anniversary, which fell on 18 February 2011. It looked as though marking Watani International’s 10th had been “placed on hold”—the preferred topic of issues discussed by the editorial.
The occasion brings to mind all the details which worked to bring to life this ambitious project. The idea behind publishing an English supplement to Watani emerged in 1999, when we at the paper thought of extending bridges of interaction between Egypt and her sons and daughters abroad, whose numbers were growing by the year. We thought of focusing on Canada, the US and Australia, the main destinations of Egyptian expatriates. Our enthusiasm for the idea was based on the conviction that Egyptian expatriates constitute a dear national wealth and add to Egypt’s credit of experts and qualified professionals overseas. We thought that if we manage to build ways of communication with them, they could perform as a pillar of development, progress and modernity. We realised that after the passage of four decades since the start of emigration, a generation of Egyptians had been born and raised entirely outside Egypt. Although they might have emotional and extended family ties with Egypt, they know very little about the country’s language, culture, history or politics. Hence we took it upon ourselves to address the younger generations of Egyptian expatriates via the language they understand, and thus Watani International came into being.
The links Watani International sought to forge were two-way ties; the supplement thus included materials coming from abroad. This worked to acquaint readers in Egypt with expatriates’ way of life overseas as well as politics there and opinion.
At this point, I am keen to stress that a host of foreign and Egyptian newspapers issue supplements in foreign languages. Yet the objective behind publishing Watani International was to relay a national message rather than broadening the paper’s circulation.
Ten years on publishing Watani International, I feel proud of the achievement. Like most great ambitions, it began as a dream. With the passage of time, the supplement improved and matured. It ceased to be solely dependent on Watani’s Arabic editorial material, and now produces exclusive features and articles. Finally, I would like to express my appreciation of the teamwork that has made this great achievement. This efficient and professional teamwork is led by Samia Sidhom, the captain at the helm of the Watani International. Appreciation is also due to the pioneers abroad who spared no effort with the English supplement either at the beginning or throughout the past decade: Francois and Soad Bassily from New Jersey, Saad Mikhail Saad and Mahfouz Doss from Los Angeles, Laila Farid from Birmingham, Adel Guindy from Paris. Watani is keen to express its utmost gratitude to everybody who contributed to editing and preparing this supplement.