Friday, March 9, 2012

The Long and Winding Road for Democracy in Egypt Part 2


Part 2: End of peaceful nature of the Egyptian revolution?

Unfortunately, the Egyptian revolution which has been a beacon for the liberty of the oppressed nations in the 21st century and fighting tyranny by peaceful means has now slipped into a dark abyss of violence from the authorities and counter violence.
The unprecedented scenes of violence starting from March 2011 all the way to December all over Egypt, have really crippled the slow and stumbling steps  towards establishing a democratic system in the country.  The violence that erupted from the burning of a church in a village of Sol in Giza last March followed by sectarian clashes in many urban and rural areas, have slowly overshadowed the peaceful nature of the Egyptian revolution that was applauded by the world during the initial 18 days.

During those initial peaceful days that resulted in ex President Mubarak stepping down from office, peace prevailed despite the use of force from the old regime forces against the demonstrations mainly on the 28th of January (Day of Fury) and 2nd of February 2011 (Battle of the Camel)
However, that looks like history. What followed was mayhem. Particularly; February 28th, March 9th, April 8th , May 15th (Storming Israeli and Saudi embassies) May 28th , July 23rd , September 9th , October 9th (Maspero’s Copts massacre) , November 19th (Mohamed Mahmoud St. massacre) and last but not least December 16th (Kasr El Ainy battle).
All of these incidents happening only in Cairo created a big question mark on the peaceful nature of the Egyptian revolution. The total number of injuries and deaths after the ousting of Mubarak would almost match those who died in the first days of the revolution if not surpass them already.
The violent quelling of the initially peaceful protests mainly by activists and Cops have turned the entire body of the revolutionaries against the Supreme Council of the armed forces who were hailed as heroes in the beginning for protecting the revolution. are are now considered by the rebels as the villains.
The Supreme council of Armed Forces (SCAF) despite being a major player and decisive factor in the ousting of Mubarak, have played a negative role in instigating some of the violence. The onus is on bad decisions taken by SCAF during their 10 month rule of Egypt.
The sluggishness in taking important and decisive decisions of holding trials to the old regime key figures and the murderers of the protestors during the first 18 day was also part of the reason of the growing anger amidst the rebels.
The continuous state of denial from SCAF and rejecting the involvement of their troops in the clashes that lead to thousands of wounded and killed rebels, have angered even the most ardent SCAF supporters and left them alienated to a great extent. The sheer brutality and draconian methods of the Military Police and Central security forces (CSF) has created a state of total distrust within the ranks of the rebel all over Egypt.
The Rebels will not stand down till SCAF announces that they will relinquish power, something that SCAF promised to do only after an elected president will be in office and that will not be before June 3oth 2012.

Despite all the above, the blame for the escalating violence cannot be pointed solely towards SCAF. Any reasonable analyst will figure out that the source of violence can be dispersed on several levels that include the following parties responsible for this escalation:
1-      SCAF:
As the country supreme leader during the transitional period, the political, social and economic decisions of SCAF had a negative impact on the stability of the Egyptian society. Their political decisions were far from revolutionary and managed to keep the old regime political system as much as possible.
Furthermore, the evident lack of security in several Egyptian cities and districts has negatively affected the daily lives of the average Egyptian and in turn the flow of investments and tourism that was expected to happen after the revolution. Moreover, the violent responses from their Military police against the mostly peaceful protestors and the bloody quelling of protests committed by some of the officers as well as the endless stream of military tribunals and arrests of activists have alienated all the rebels from them. These tribunals have arrested and tried over 12000 Egyptians according to the latest reports most of them were thugs captured during raids. However, a significant chunk of them were political activists who were captured and tried like Maikel Nabil (Received 2 year sentence) and Alaa abdel Fattah (Still on trial) among dozens more.
SCAF have effectively proven the lack of political awareness, prudence or strategy to stabilize the country and fulfill the dreams of most Egyptians who dreamt of a better future after the revolution. However, the alternative of SCAF is not evident now and their presence in power during transitional period may still be the best of all evil alternatives since they are the last organized institution on the land.
2-      Mubarak Loyalists:
They are old regime loyalist who are still in power or have the authority and money to fund all the anti-revolutionary movements starting from the infamous assault on the rebels during the first 18 days on the February 2nd 2011 (Battle of the Camel) all the way to their physical, material attempts to kill, injure, discredit the rebels in every possible way.
They resort to violence sometimes or propaganda against the rebels on National TV and their own private TV networks. They are still one of the most organized anti-revolutionary group and many of them are concealed within the ranks of the pro-revolutionary ones. Due to the current mayhem in the Egyptian streets and public opinion they are gaining ground that they didn’t think that they would ever win again after the revolution.
Despite the failure of most of them as candidates in the previous two rounds of parliamentary elections, they are still operating successfully on the ground and managed to cause turbulences in the political scene against the rebels. Their ability to hire thugs and cause mayhem during any revolutionary demonstrations or protests has been proven time and again.
SCAF surprisingly, turned their back on the actions of the loyalists despite of many declarations that some of the old regime figures are under investigations but SCAF till this moment didn’t pinpoint who is behind all the funding and organized violence produced by that group.  Mubarak loyalists still represent a clear and present danger on the path for democracy in Egypt.

3-      The Rebels:
Puritan Rebels sacrificed everything to reach their goals in this revolution including their body parts and their own lives, yet the lack of coordination and common acceptable goal have made themquite spontaneous and sometimes rebels without a cause in the eyes of the public. The original puritan peaceful groups have been infiltrated by more seemingly violent radical leftists and anarchists groups who don’t seem to follow any logical path in their demands and sometimes dictate unreasonable demands to SCAF and all Egyptians in the name of the revolution.
The collision of such groups with the security forces and SCAF was inevitable since they occupy the streets, forward their demands and insist that they are met without negotiations. This method is neither acceptable by SCAF or a large spectrum of the public opinion seem to accept.
These actions have manifested negatively on the results of the rebel candidates in the Parliamentary elections with only very few seats won compared to the more organized conservative Freedom and Justice Party of Muslim Brotherhood and radical El Nour party of the Salafis fundamentalists. Even the rebels actions have affected the other liberal blocs candidates like the Egyptian Bloc or Al Thawra Mostamera (The Revolution Continues) bloc. The last two were misjudged about being completely supportive of some of the mayhem caused by the anarchists within the rebels ranks and paid a hefty price in the election results.
The path of the rebels now is filled with obstacles to achieve any tangible results due to the lack of leadership or unified goals. No longer the words “Peaceful, Peaceful” chanted during the demonstrations have the same affect on the ears of the public opinion since some of the rebels were already involved in acts of violence. Also, SCAF propaganda machine have managed to taint all of them as being violent rioters instead of peaceful rebels . Their reputation is at stake at the moment and without a unified front and a clear message to the public opinion they will likely to fail in their aim of achieving their entire goals for change. The rebels must adopt a new strategy in order to gain the lost ground in the hearts of the public and keep the loose cannons among them checked.

4-      Islamists:
Be that Muslim Brotherhood or Fundamentalists like Salafis parties like El Nour. Islamists didn’t keep their hands clean from the violence that erupted after the revolution. In fact, they were the first to use violence after the revolution targeting the moderate Sufi shrines and other places of Sufi worship.
Furthermore, the Coptic Christians have suffered from physical violence that resulted in killing of some copts and burning of 2 churches for the first time in Egyptian modern history on the hands of the Salafis group. These groups didn’t just resort to physical violence but also hate speech in some satellite TV channels operated by them and mainly funded by countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE.
The violence incitement and media propaganda orchestrated by the Salafis leaders against Copts and liberals took a harsher form during the elections with some Copts being prevented from voting in the Elections in the governorate of Fayoum by Salafis groups.
Amazingly, SCAF have kept their eyes shut throughout the violence committed by these groups and never attempted to apply the law on them as much as they do to the liberal and activists in general. Islamists were the first to instigate the violence in streets post the revolution and managed to be a bully to all liberal powers without any sort of law-abiding except siding with SCAF politically to serve their own agenda.
Reports of coercion and violence they practiced during the elections in many districts while they are still not in power can only be an indicator what they are willing to do to maintain their authority while they are in power and form the government.

5-      Egyptian Media:
Egyptian private TV stations and media may have played a great and positive role in the years preceded the revolution in spreading political awareness and democratic values in the Egyptian society thus paving the way for the glorious revolution to take place on the Jan25th 2011. However, starting from the days that followed the ousting of the former president the media shift to sensationalism and adopting an extreme and irrational political view was evident.
The sensationalism factor became the dominant one in most of the political TV shows including very prominent TV hosts and shows. In most cases, the hosts of such shows had hard time separating their professional duties from their own personal views and feelings. That result is further dismay and confusion of the Egyptian public.
Programs either adopted a hardcore pro-revolution apologist view or a hard core pro-SCAF or old regime apologist view. The truth and objectivity could be hardly noticed while incitements for civil unrest and violence could be easily heard or watched during the course of such daily programs that were watched by millions.
The apologists for the rebels, Islamists, loyalist or SCAF would go all the way to prove their theories with mostly half-truth or distorted ones at best. It was common during the past months that the public Egyptian TV to incite violence against protestors time and again and called for what the names as “honourable citizens” to fight against the rebels in Tahrir in the name of stability of the country and economic growth.
The negative role of most media outlets and those non-traditional ones like Social media network have led to further sense of paranoia and division in the Egyptian society. Calls for attacking military officers, police as well as other opposing factions can be easily traced on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets used by the Egyptian youth. Rumours about the military, rebels, loyalists, etc.. are like a daily diet for all the users of such network who find themselves sometimes entangled in a web of lies they partly created themselves.
A call for reason and good judgment from all parties involved in official and non-official media is a must now in order for Egypt to pass through this critical phase as the damage is already done and now it must be rectified.

6-      Egyptian public
Now this maybe a surprise to some, but every able bodied Egyptian has a shared responsibility for the current state of affairs of the country. They have chosen either to back SCAF blindly and done that in the March 19th Constitution reform referendum without knowing the consequence of voting for “Yes” which resulted in all the mess Egypt is witnessing now. Some of them gave way to shared rumours and innuendos either about SCAF or Rebels and tarnishing the reputation of both without full knowledge of the details.
The Egyptian public was too eager to rip the fruits of the revolution and believed that everything will be fine just by ousting the former dictator Mubarak. They exchanged numbers of the presumed wealth of the former regime and brought their calculators to check their own portion. Most wanted an increase in their wages and immediate improvement in their life standard and ignoring that the revolution is a first step in doing that but they will not achieve it except through more years of hard work and dedication to the country.
The majority of Egyptians kept accusing the rebels of receiving foreign funds, questioned their motives daily and even voted against their candidates in the parliamentary elections. All of which consequently that led to a more violent response from within the rebels directed towards everyone. The public is not willing to check facts or news they receive before spreading them like cancer and believing that they are unquestionable facts. Most are willing to believe what SCAF announces in their periodical media declarations and press conferences without questions.
The passiveness of another chunk of Egyptian public is also adding complications to an already complicated situation. Those who couldn’t care less to vote in the elections as if the future of Egypt is not already at stake. Those who vote for spite against rebels for radical Islamists who already had a long dark history of committing atrocious terrorist and violent acts against Egypt have all added to fueling hatred and violence in Egypt.
In conclusion, the vicious circle of violence fueled by the all the above is not likely to end without unrelenting efforts from all parties to give way to a democratic process that features no losers or victors. Meaning every single Egyptian must understand that the very fabric of the Egyptian society is on the verge of corrosion and the endless mindless violence from SCAF, Rebel, etc.. will only postpone if not annihilate the chances of creating a true democratic Egypt in the near future.
Egyptians are in a very critical transitional point of history where every able bodied Egyptian is responsible for the safety of this country for this generation and the future ones. The draconian old methods of SCAF must cease now as well as the rebels need to indulge with the rest of the powers in a political process that saves country from falling further in the abyss they created.
Egypt is on a crossroad that leads either to further violence or a democratic society and a model to follow in the turbulent Middle East.

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