The British ambassador in Cairo, writes on his blog about the Nag Hammadi massacre

The damage of silence

Dominic Asquith British Ambassador to Egypt

Monday 11 January, 2010

Over the last days of 2009, the streets of Karachi, Muzaffarabad and Baghdad became the latest battle ground of suicide bombers blowing up other Muslims in the name of Islam.  Al Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed as its own an attempt by a young, well educated, wealthy Nigerian to destroy the lives of nearly 300 passengers in the skies above the US at Christmas.  The young Nigerian had earlier posted on his blog that he imagined how “the great jihad will take place, how the Muslims will win (Allah willing) and will rule the whole world and establish the greatest empire once again.”

The early days of 2010 have witnessed the murder of Christians in upper Egypt on the steps of their Church as they celebrated the birth of Christ – whether sectarian or not, the choice of targets and timing was clearly designed to create effect. Some used the Swiss referendum on minarets as “evidence” of an unchangeable “Islamophobia” in the West.  In the same way, others are citing the recent attacks and their justification by those who carried them out as proof of an unbridgeable divide between Islam and non-Islam.

We have to prove both sets of people wrong.  As in the Swiss context, the reaction from opinion formers is going to be decisive.  The West suffers from acts carried out by people claiming to be Western but which the great majority would disown as unrepresentative.  Denouncing these acts as wrong wherever they occur and credibly demonstrating that they are unrepresentative is a responsibility shared by all persons of reason.

The Head of the Civil Rights Congress in Kaduna (Nigeria) said that “for the past 30 years we have witnessed the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in this part of the country” with some groups funded by individuals and countries from the Middle East. Again in Nigeria, the secretary-general of the Islamic Network for Development said that for anyone to contemplate such an act was inhuman. The Muslim Public Affairs Centre based in Lagos said the attempted attack was a complete violation of the teachings of Islam.

What is essential is that those in positions of authority need to make the same points.  The life of a Shia killed celebrating Ashoura or a Christian celebrating Christmas is just as valuable as that of a passenger on Northwest Airlines flight 253.  There is no scope for saying one is more or less innocent.

If the reaction is silence (particularly when the choice of dates for committing the crimes is clearly purposeful), some will assume that the argument of the extremists is justified: that it is permissible to kill someone just because he or she is a “Westerner” (or indeed just happens to be in a Western location) or is from a different sect or a different religion.  Since Muslim extremists are justifying their actions, the perception will be created that they speak for Islam – unless others  contradict them, Muslim and non-Muslim.  We all need to tell them – loudly: “You are wrong”.

The effect of such extremism, if left unopposed, is to create a vicious circle.  Fear by non-Islam about Islam will mean less interaction, less understanding and greater prejudice – and greater fear … and so we go round again, but more destructively.  We need to support each other in breaking this vicious circle.

Original entry here

Disastrous conditions for Copts

From the blog Besaraha … let`s speak honestly

When a Copt writes or addresses the rights of Copts, he or she often receives a variety of comments revolving around a single idea that can be summarized in the following:

Yes, Christians are persecuted, but Muslims are persecuted, the Copts do not get their rights just like Muslims. Copt sufferings are only part of the suffering of all Egyptians, so don’t be sectarian in addressing these issues and talk about your problems only!

In fact, this view is delusional, if the conditions of Muslims are tragic, then Copts’ conditions are a disaster.

Copts are suffering just like the rest of the Egyptians from the absence of democracy and the bad side of high prices, unemployment and polluted air and crowded transportation and road accidents, police abuses and lack of services and going through the hardest times in the governmental public hospitals. They also drink the contaminated drinking water from pumps, that is contaminated with sanitation. They eat like others, the bread that is made of carcinogenic wheat, vegetables sown by sanitation water and sprayed with the internationally banned pesticide, etc.

In addition to the general suffering that is common between Copts and the rest of the Egyptians, there is an additional suffering that plagues Copts, which is religious racism and discrimination, such as preventing Copts from building churches for praying, and the intransigence and procrastination in the issuance of permits for the construction or the renovation of churches; and even preventing them from praying in their homes, suffering from death upon their identity and collective punishment, and protection of the government to the aggressors and the loss of their rights and attacking their faith in the state-owned media, etc…

Copts suffer twice, they suffer once because they are Egyptians and again because they are Copts.

But when religious racism is added to the rest of the social problems that the Egyptian people suffer from, it becomes more difficult for Christians than others; it creates the distinction between Muslims and Christians, to get what is essentially a small, corrupt and non-human being.

The unemployment problem is tougher for Christians than Muslims. When a Muslim employer responds to the fatwas of the clerics that accuse Christians of being infidels, and refuses to hire the “Christian infidels” in his factory, company, and even shop or bakery, to become a priority for Muslims in jobs that are already scarce, it also prevents the Coptic from employment in many government departments, police, judicial bodies and state-owned media.

The deterioration of health services in government hospitals is at an inhumane level. It becomes tougher for Christians when the inhumane negligence by the fully veiled nurses and doctors with long beards are added to the failure and carelessness taking place in public hospitals – to the pain of the “Christian” patient – and give priority to the Muslim patient to gain an access to contaminated needles and medicine and wrong prescriptions.

The absence of true democracy made the parliamentary elections filled with bullying, forgery, closed ballots and distorting propaganda, in addition to the racist religious propaganda promoted by members of both the Muslim Brotherhood group and the ruling National Democratic Party, which are the main subversive propaganda that would prevent any Copt to reach parliament.

The dirty and immoral sexual harassment that women and girls suffer from in Egypt is the hardest, especially for Coptic Girls, because they are halal – “allowed to harass them” – according to some Salafi extremist sheikhs. Even when they address the issue in the media or the Internet, you find them very furious about sexual harassment of veiled women, as if harassing Copts is a normal and acceptable deed!

Lack of professionalism in the Egyptian press, which plagues everyone in Egypt, affects the Copts in attacks on their faith and their church. And the dissemination of lies, which exonerates the perpetrators and accuses the victims of all attacks that occur to them by the Muslims, which the press calls “communal clashes” in the framework of a crude shameless effort to twist the facts and to justify attacks on the Copts.

The dangerous journey between one center to another in a microbus driven by a stoned driver becomes more of a nuisance for Copts, especially when the driver plays a tape of a sheikh insulting the Christian religion, without being able to open his mouth to object, to avoid aggravating the passengers who would accuse him of objecting the words of God!

As a final example, all Egyptians now live in fear of the spread of the H1N1 virus, and while it inflicts Coptic Christians, like the rest of the Egyptians, the Copts are more affected, as the government exploited the issue to eliminate the livestock owned by Copts and the destruction of garbage recycling industry, whose pioneers were Copts … A foolish decision, which Egypt is now suffering from its consequences after the accumulation of tons of garbage, which was devoured by pigs before they were culled.

The demands of the Copts, Nubians, Bedouins and the Mahalla workers, tax collectors, circus artists and ambulance workers, etc. are national demands and meeting them is for the good of our homeland and to improve the conditions of its people.

And the demands of the Copts are:

Justice

Equality

Security

Is this too much?

It is not a shame for Copts to demand their rights …

**translated by Mohamed Abdel Salam

BM

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قام موقع Bikya Masr بمرة أخرى ترجمة تدوينة من مدونتى هى تدوينة  “طين مطين بطين” ونشرها باللغة الإنجليزية ، بعد إختياره لها كتدوينة الإسبوع .

خالص الشكرا للموقع وأسرة تحريره وبخاصة الأستاذ / محمد عبد السلام الذى قام بترجمة التدوينة.

Coptic demonstration in Los Angeles to protest against the persecution of Copts in Egypt

Coptic-Americans and others protested in solidarity on January 10, 2010 to show their condemnation of the mistreatment on Egyptian Coptics across the years. Most recently, the killings of six Egyptian Coptic Christians after Coptic (Jan. 7) Christmas mass in Naga Hammadi (Eastern Egypt, near the Nile) ignited Los Angeles protest in front of the Federal building.

المظاهرة القبطية بلوس انجلوس بالولايات المتحدة إحتجاجاً على إضطهاد الاقباط فى مصر ، والعنف ضدهم.

Practice what you preach

Bikya Masr Staff
27 December 2009 in Blog post of the week, Media

fogrFrom the blog Besaraha (let’s speak frankly):

This has not been edited, direct translation from Bikya Masr’s Mohamed Abdel Salam

As the saying goes: “practice what you preach for” and we do not wish that our authoritarian and racist government or our police state could in any day feel ashamed of its practices against its own Coptic citizens, because it lacks any sense and doesn’t have any feelings, and it exceeds the deeds that were once prohibited by its system,  and commits even worse crimes than the crimes it has once criticized and attacked!

While the government was the reason why Egypt’s name is ranked amongst all the lists of authoritarian regimes that violate all the freedoms and rights of their people! Does not desist itself from appearing as ” the guardian of human rights and minorities, and safeguard of the dignity of all religions in the world.”

Our police and racist government defends all the Muslims in Denmark, France, Switzerland, Chine and in Netherlands, while if any foreign Humanitarian Organization tried to speak about the rights of Copts, the government in turn, accuses it of meddling in Internal Egyptian affairs!!! And that their speech about the problems of Egypt is contradicting the conception of “national sovereignty”.

Our government is trying to promote international law against contempt of religion, while it publishes – at its own  expense – books and articles that flout “Christianity”,  and incite to kill Christians and plunder their money and rape their daughters; it does not investigate any report or communications from the Copts against the ones that contempt their religion and their holy book! And honored the perpetrators,  and by giving them the space of publishing in State Media , at the time it wants to prosecute critics of religions around the world !!!!! There is contempt and there is something called “ freedom of opinion’ , depends on the cases, and the way it suits the government.

Our government  was outraged and threatened Switzerland when it banned the building of more minarets of mosques, while it practically prohibits not only the building of Minarets, but it prohibits the building of churches itself,  and it impedes the restoration of ancient churches by applying a law that dates back to the era of the Ottoman occupation of Egypt, in regards of building churches regulations.

Copts are obligated to reach out for the President himself to get his approval to build a new church!

The government turned a blind eye to the burning of churches by Islamic Extremists and attribute all these accents to “ electrical fire”, and forces priests to repeat the same excuses to the media in return for issuing a license or a permit for the restoration of the church  and allowing them to remove the effects of the fire!!! It also condones the collective punishment of Christians by Muslims  who attack new churches, and the ones who beat and burn the homes, if they knew that the Copts were gathering to pray in a house!

Our racist government, cried all over the world and condemned the murder of Marwa El Sherbini, and seeked retribution for her blood, while not bringing justice to the blood of thousands of Christians killed by Muslims over the last four decades, both in the mass assaults on the Copts , like in El Zawiya Al Hamra district in Cairo (100 killed) and in Kosh eh (20 killed) in  Sohag, Upper Egypt.

It forces the Coptic victims to reconcile with the killers of their relatives, it is enough said, when we know that in the same year that witnessed the death of Marwa El-Sherbini in Germany, about  10 Copts from different governorates got killed, without holding any perpetrator accountable for any of these murders,  knowing that all of them were killed in incidents of sectarian violence, and there is know prior knowledge among the perpetrators and the victims!

While our insensitive government did not pay attention to the death of thousands of Egyptians , who drowned in the sea in 2006 , or crushed under the stones to death in the rockslide accident in Duwaia in 2008, or burnt to death in train crashes, it starts to take moves in a crazy way , and mobilizes all of its organs and institution for the killing of one Egyptian citizen , because she was killed in a country of infidels, the infidels who blame Egypt for its bad record of human rights and for the violations against its own citizens.

After the severe conviction decision by the German court against the Russian murderer,  the Egyptian Prosecution referred the killer of  a Copt (whose name is Abdo George)- to the psychiatric hospital for the issuance of certificate of insanity to get him away from being punished, as usual! After trying to classify the  crime as  a murder case during a normal fight  but it was faced with the truth that there was no prior relation between the killer and the victim,  thus , it fabricated a certificate to save face.

And while  it speaks for the maintenance of the dignity of expatriate Egyptian,  it does not put any consideration for the maintenance of the dignity of the Egyptians at home first, and as it has screamed in defense of headscarves and veils in Europe, it  did  not hesitate to expose the Egyptian and tearing their clothes and violating their  humanity in the streets!!!

All this, in addition to, the state destroying its economy and  recycling industry through the mass slaughter of all the pigs that belong to Copts, on the pretext of H1N1 virus protective measures, while there pigs had nothing to do with the virus transmission,  and no one single state did that in the world!!! Including Mexico that witnessed the first case ever in the whole world!!!!, as it is a racist government that tries to exploit any opportunity to oppress Copts.

BM

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قام موقع Bikya Masr بترجمة تدوينة “الفاجرة ست جيرانها” ونشرها باللغة الإنجليزية ، بعد إختياره لها كتدوينة الإسبوع .

خالص الشكرا للموقع وأسرة تحريره وبخاصة الأستاذ / محمد عبد السلام الذى قام بترجمة التدوينة.

Copts between the rock of Islamism and a hard place

From The Times   November 13, 2009

The oldest Christian community faces harsh new pressures

Shenouda_585x350_645038a

The first two months of the Coptic new year have been a sombre time for Egypt’s ancient Christian community. The new year fell on the inauspicious date of September 11. And a spate of attacks on this large and downtrodden community by Islamist extremists or villagers giving a religious pretext to petty quarrels have provoked accusations of officially tolerated discrimination and heightened fears that Islamists will be emboldened to undercut the laws that promise religious freedom and legal equality in Egypt.

Clashes broke out in Kafr al-Barbaqri, a Nile delta town, in July after a shopkeeper stabbed a teenager to death in a dispute over an empty soda bottle. The Christian grocer had refused to give the Muslim boy a partial refund, and in the ensuing argument the grocer struck the boy with a knife, leading to his death. Dozens of Muslims went on the rampage, setting fire to the grocer’s house and the one next door, leading to 30 arrests.

A month earlier 18 people were wounded in fighting in a village south of Cairo after a Coptic priest celebrated Mass in his home. In August two Copts were arrested “for security reasons” after reporting to the police that they had been attacked by a mob.

The incidents usually stem from petty quarrels in villages where prejudice against Copts has been growing as the influence of Islamist extremists has eaten away at former tolerance of this religious minority. Copts complain that the State frequently fails to protect their rights, and that some officials actively connive in discriminatory measures against them.

A wave of anti-Coptic feeling prompted the recent mass slaughter of pigs in Egypt, officially sanctioned to stop the spread of swine flu. Many Copts work as rubbish collectors in the big cities, and pigs are used to feed on discarded food and remains. The move appeared to be directed at the Copts while reinforcing the Muslim view of pigs as unclean.

Copts are the oldest and largest Christian community in the Middle East. Representing between 10 and 20 per cent of Egypt’s population of 80 million, they claim descent from the church brought to Alexandria by St Mark during the reign of the emperor Claudius, and call themselves the Church of St Mark. For centuries Copts formed the majority in Egypt, until the advent of Islam in 641, when most were forcibly converted or became Muslims to avoid heavy taxes imposed on them.

Egyptian Christianity was immensely important is settling the direction of the early Church. The pivotal Council of Nicea (AD325) was presided over by Pope Alexander of Alexandria, and took binding decisions on liturgy, Church authority and the date of Easter. Egyptian patriarchs also headed the next two main councils, Constantinople (381) and Ephesus (431).

Some 95 per cent of Egypt’s Christians today belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, with the rest divided between Catholic and Protestant churches that established themselves in the past century. The present patriarch is the 85-year-old Pope Shenouda III, who has led the Coptic Church since 1971.

He recently caused controversy when he plunged into politics by declaring on an Egyptian satellite station that he believed Gamal Mubarak, the son of President Mubarak, would be the perfect candidate to succeed his father. His remarks were seen as a way of currying favour with the man widely tipped to take over from his father soon. But they reflected Coptic fears of the growing Islamist influence in Egypt. Pope Shenouda said that, while he had good official relations with the country’s top Muslim leaders, there were “many tensions” today between Muslims and Copts.

He complained that neither Egypt’s parliament nor its local councils could resolve the conflicts, which led to further problems. His remarks were attacked by some Copts, aware of the growing row over the lack of democratic choice in the likely succession of the younger Mubarak. Some also questioned his right to speak on politics for all his community. Discrimination against Copts has varied over the centuries. They began to prosper, especially in the 19th century, and many were leaders in business and commerce. But their position deteriorated again after the overthrow of King Farouk and during the nationalist rule and socialist measures of President Nasser.

Many senior Copts have been waging a campaign to force the Government to ease the law that prevents them building new churches or even repairing existing ones without special presidential permission. An unofficial strike was staged by some on September 11, when they refused to leave their homes.

The Government recently agreed that repairs could be carried out with permission of the local authority. But it has largely failed to soften unofficial discrimination. However, permission was recently given for the community to open two private television channels, a considerable concession to their calls for more equal broadcasting time.

Muslims complain, however, that Western Christians, especially evangelical churches in America, have been using the Copts and the few Egyptian Protestant churches to proselytise among the Muslim majority.

The issue of changing religion is explosive, and there is widespread anger at attempts at proselytising and numerous instances of Muslims being killed who converted.

Western Christians are accused of using community programmes as a way of spreading Christianity. The Copts reject this, but acknowledge that resentment against Western, especially American, influence in Egypt is growing. In return, Copts claim that in some villages young Coptic girls are kidnapped and forcibly married to Muslims. They say appeals to the authorities to find missing Coptic girls are rarely followed up and that the strong penalties for abduction are not enforced.

This cycle of accusation and counter-accusation has fuelled the growing acrimony and mutual suspicion. As a result many Copts have emigrated, especially to America, where Egyptian Muslims accuse them of influencing Washington’s policy towards Egypt.

The Copts also complain of official barriers to advancement within the state. Copts are not allowed to join the army and few are accepted in government service.

Boutros Boutros Galli, the former UN Secretary General, is a Copt. But in Egypt he never rose higher than acting Foreign Minister. His brother Peter is currently one of only two Copts in government.

The original article  is here

Pig War

تر جمة  لتدوينة حرب الخنازير

pig war

Maybe I was the first Egyptian blogger to write about swine flu, how it spreads, and shed light on the package of government measures to prevent the disease. This included the slaughter of all pigs in the Muqattam area and in the informal Zabaleen settlements of Cairo because it may be the source for them contracting the illness. However, I was wrong and it is not a shame for a writer to acknowledge his mistake. Out of feeling deep alarm about this disease and fearing for my country and family I rushed to write about it without gathering sufficient information about what I should write about especially as it was a new subject.

Of the information that I did not know about was the fact that there is no need at all to slaughter all pigs. It is futile of no benefit but rather detrimental to pig farmers and the interests of the national economy. That is why no country affected by the swine flu virus, including Mexico, slaughtered their pigs despite the strict health measures that each developed country took whom are accustomed to dealing effectively with health crises and whom in spite of the economic crisis have allocated billions of dollars to deal with it. 

Swine flu spreads via airborne transmission between humans, then mutates into a human epidemic not linked to pigs. Nor will the slaughter of pigs or moving them to other locations be of any benefit.  The correct veterinary procedure is to keep an eye on the farm, regular checkups, immunisation against the disease and slaughtering only the pig infected, if only one is affected by the virus, or the whole flock if a number of pigs are affected (it is exactly the same procedure as when dealing with bird flu, nothing more nor less). 

But of course with just the dissemination of news about the swine flu there was an explosion of increasing religious racism against the Egyptian Copts and joy from the Islamists – what joy with this disaster because they found at last what they think is a justification for outlawing all pork. I thought that at least our government would appreciate the extent of the danger and deal with it in an objective, scientific and carefully thought out manner. Unfortunately I was to be disappointed; the whole issue turned into wave of racial abuse. 

All the government bodies, ministries, newspapers and satellite channels announced a war against the pigs and the poor pig owners. 

The papers became filled with racist descriptions such as pig breeding pits, pig breeding dens, pig breeding mafias. Even the paper on the 07.04.2009, published before my own dangerous intelligence, featured Shshshshsh bring your ear closer … a map of pig breeding in Egypt …. as if it was in a secret location under the earth that no one knows about… 

I saw on TV Egyptian doctors and veterinarians speaking about pigs on the basis of their religious faith not on the basis of scientific research. You find one of them confirms that the pigs in Egypt are not infected, all the blood samples came back negative and that the disease spreads from human to human, that pigs have no connection now to the subject at all. Then you see him suddenly arise after that and announce that in spite of all the pigs have to be slaughtered  because they are an unclean and filthy creatures!!!!! 

The Egyptian satellite stations have waged a campaign of incitement against the Coptic garbage collectors of Muqattam and pig breeders that contain all the racist expressions and degrading terms for those who raise pigs or eat their meat. Then there is the interferers who ring up the satellite channels, the type who call themselves George or Abd al-Masih or Mark, and of course they all demand the destruction of pigs, to do away with all the defilement. During the conversation an expression comes out that clearly shows they were not Christians at all. 

This besides the flood of racist comments full of fallacies in the Egyptian and Arabic news sites on this subject which requires to be put down in writing separately, for discussing the most significant and most repeated comments. 

The question is when bird flu struck Egypt did the Egyptian government take the decision to destroy all the birds that were reared in Egypt – poultry, ducks, geese, turkeys and pigeons!!! Was the upshot of it all to stop the rearing of them or were the government, and still are, investigating, analysing and destroying only the birds affected. 

Egypt is the only state in the world that has resolved to destroy the pig farms despite the disease being transferred via humans. It has become clear that the government is seeking to implement a new agenda, nothing to do with the health measures such as what other countries are implementing to deal with the virus. To someone who is does not understand the country’s twisted methods and true motives for Egypt ’s decision it appears to be similar to someone who is firing at a lion’s shadow not his heart. 

The truth is that President Hosni Mubarak was objective in the meeting that was convened to discuss the subject – his Egyptian television broadcast – and had asked the Minister of Health Dr. Hatim Jabli openly. He asked him, “Did the Mexicans destroy all their pigs? Has anyone else in the world destroyed their pigs? The minister replied directly, “No, no one has destroyed any pigs!!!! 

However, Dr. Ahmed Nazif, the prime minister told the president: “On the subject of the destruction of pigs this has been a popular demand for ages!!!!! You see it has been a popular demand for ages. I’m sure that this does not need any explanation. It has been made clear the obvious intention by eradicating the pigs. The issue is a pretext. 

Hour-by-hour the world media agencies are closely following the development of the epidemic in every part of the world and the measures taken by every country to remedy the virus. They have conveyed the Egyptian government’s decision to destroy a part of the country’s livestock wealth with the destruction of all its pigs from a comical angle with their coverage of the news of the virus seeing it as one of the weird ways that the peoples deal with the epidemic. The news is presented in the way that shows that Egyptians don’t fully understand the difference between pigs and swine flu and that they think incorrectly that they have to destroy pigs and not the virus that is named after the creatures!!! Meanwhile other TV channels have hinted that the Egyptian government have exploited the situation over the virus to persecute the Christian minority, from the owners of pig farms to pork consumers, harassing them as the government implement Islamic teachings. 

The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) announced that Egypt’s decision to destroy all the pigs in the country was “a real mistake” because there was no reason for that seeing that it is not the pigs that have the swine flu but the humans. They also announced that they had tried to contact government officials to clarify their stance but they couldn’t reach them (the Beys are escaping the FAO because they know well that their decision was based on sectarianism not for scientific reasons – honestly, everyone, it’s more of a farce). 

The People’s Council met very quickly and all parties issued a unanimous decision to destroy the pigs (none of these parties have agreed on anything before except on one thing, to oppose Faruq Hosni over the wearing of the hijab!!). They issued a decision even though they admitted they had not studied the case well enough, and justified this by saying there was no time to study it – Kamal Shathli, the very senior deputy, had stated that. (Of course, the opportunity just fell into his lap and they had to exploit the public’s panic and pretend that they had been involved in the matter for a considerable time). 

But they refuse to compensate the pig rearers for the pigs that are to be destroyed, meaning revenge, death and the destruction of homes. 

Someone is to submit a report to the attorney general to investigate the owners of pig pens. 

It appears someone has demanded the arrest of pig rearers!!! Really – are they a risk to public security!!! 

There are those that are requesting that pigs never again be reared in Egypt and any Copt caught rearing them again be given the death penalty!!! This is in the state that does not put to death the killers of Copts!!! 

The journalist, Mustafa Bakri – who has a long history of hostility towards the Copts and in inciting them – spread a false rumour that an Egyptian had contracted bird flu. 

The final note:  This racist, sectarian, unscientific manner in which the government deals with the swine flu proves that it’s on the path to failure in treating it as it failed before in dealing with the bird flu.

أشكر الأخ الحبيب الذى تعب فى ترجمة تدوينة حرب الخنازير ونشرها باللغة الإنجليزية هنا