Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eleven months later

During the last weeks and months, terrible things have happened in Egypt. Since January 25 everything has deteriorated.

I am closely following the events and sometimes, I have the opportunity to discuss things with Egyptians. However, it is difficult to keep track on what is going on. Lots of questions are in my mind and the lack of understanding makes it sometimes impossible for me to write. Besides, this is not a political blog.

But it’s a blog about my life in Egypt and this is why I try to give an overview from my very personal point of view.

Mubarak’s overthrow on February 11, 2011, was an event of utter joy for liberally thinking people and created much hope for a better future. Eleven months later, nothing is left from this joy. It rather feels like a lethal hangover after a hilarious party with accidents and disasters in the aftermath. Suddenly one becomes aware what should have been done differently – or what should have been omitted.

There was no leader in January. It was a single uprising and uproar against an unfair, corrupt regime that benefitted and tremendously enriched a few and let the vast majority languish at the poverty line. Infrastructure, education, medicine, environment etc. have been painfully neglected. The mere access to pure drinking water is not reality but a dream for about half of Egypt’s population.

Not knowing better and because there was no real leader, the people handed over the power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). And in doing so, they gave it back to the regime! The activists became aware of their blatant mistake at the latest upon the massacre on October 9.

Foreign hands?
Many Egyptians believe what the SCAF and the remnants of the old regime have always been preaching on the occasion of any uproar: foreign hands are behind the insurgency aiming to destabilize and disunite the country. It’s said to be a conspiracy against the Arab world, as the fall of Tunisia, the attack on Libya, the uproars in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain are proving. The “silent majority” or “couch party” is still supporting the old regime and are regretting Mubarak. Most of them do it passively – precisely silent. They would rather prefer a comparatively safe life and euphemistic words and actions. In return, they would quietly accept corruption, censorship, suppression of minorities, violence and torture, poverty and so much more.

Repetitive pattern
Yet eventually it has become clear that the SCAF is not willing to hand over its strong position in Egypt. They have to defend a huge, corrupt empire of factories, companies, real estates, holiday resorts, streets, and bridges – a state within the state – and a nice yearly lump from the United States.

I list only a few of the atrocities: the attacks on the Coptic Church in Alexandria on NewYear’s Eve (31.12.2010), the “camel battle” of February 2 in Cairo, the humiliating abuse of women on March 8 (known as the “virginity test”), the massacreon Copts on October 9, the slaughter at the end of November near Tahrir square and the recent attacks in another street in Cairo. At first, the culprits were thugs, hired by the Ministry of Interior resp. the old regime. Then, it was the State Security that was soon after re-organized – in effect they only changed its name. Finally, the culprits were soldiers who killed demonstrators. They were assisted by thugs and the violence become more and more brutal.

SCAF’s reaction? First: silence. Second: incriminating foreign hands and refusing of being involved. Since very recently they even present “evidence”: street children were paid to create chaos. Third: promising to stop violence. Forth: promising, a military commission would investigate the events and the culprits would be held accountable. Fifth: apologies. Sorry, that we have killed some of you? Sorry, that we have tortured you a bit? Days ago, they apologized for the attack on women – but not on men… Sixth: culprits are held accountable and released for lack of evidence (!). Or: a scapegoat gets a heavy sentence.

In addition, most of the trials, especially those regarding Mubarak, his fellows and his sons, have been put off repeatedly. This is a slap in the Egyptian people’s face.

The pattern of violence and denial may have worked fifty years ago. Yet nowadays, it doesn’t work anymore thanks to internet: evidence in pictures, videos, narrations from prisoners and victims of tortures, from activists, from doctors and residents are being spread instantly. The strategy “divide and conquer” has worked well until recently: Egyptians are divided. Seculars against religious, liberals against conservatives, educated against illiterate, wives against husbands. With one exception: when the violence becomes too brutal, they all gather together again, united against the SCAF. The recent abuse and attacks on women showed: enough is enough. The SCAF and its fellows are with their back to the wall. This is what I think. Or what should come next: a procedure like in Syria?

Why elections?
Then, I ask myself: why all these efforts for the “first free Egyptian elections”? This farce of elections is not necessary at all, I think. Those who believe that these elections are honest and fair are dreaming. It is impossible that the radical Islamists can unite 20-25% of the votes for themselves out of the blue, even when they have lots of money and many Egyptians voted for them out of religious duty. One theory says that the Salafis are a counterbalance for the Muslim Brothers – because the latter ones are the only group that can become dangerous for the SCAF. However, there are indications that the Muslim Brothers made an agreement with the SCAF. I don’t know. I only see that the present elections are a complete nonsense. Just the submitted claims because of irregularities, lost or dumped (!) ballot papers and ballot boxes would be reason enough to nullify these elections. The newly formed liberal parties don’t have a chance because of this (not only because of their lack of experience and their fragmentation).

All these events had a negative impact on the economy. The foreign currency reserves have decreased; the rulers decline a loan from the IMF. Income from tourism shrank by a third. Hotels have an actual occupancy rate – it’s Christmas time – of about 60%. Investors are reluctant to invest. Actually, the SCAF and the interim cabinet have had enough time during the recent eleven months to re-establish confidence in the Egyptian market. The shocking news that goes round the world does not really support the economy. Yet, maybe this is not in SCAF’s interest? This is to disunite the people. Many people are fed up with the revolution, they want to eat and have shelter. They want jobs and security.

Anniversary January 25
Many are fed up, but many don’t give up. More and more political parties and groups – except the Salafis and only hardly audible the Muslim Brothers – stand up against SCAF and criticise them. Incompetence and slow actions are the reproaches. They demand an end to the violence and to hand over the power to a civil government and much more…

The January 25 anniversary is approaching. If the SCAF does not speak and act in a credible way soon, there will be another huge uprising on January 25. Egyptians are extremely patient and enduring. They were lied at and betrayed of their revolution, I can’t believe that they are going to accept this.

The present situation looks rather dark, but the revolution isn’t lost yet.

And finally: I’ve been expecting a coup within the military for quite some time. SCAF is not the military. But every time when I spoke to an Egyptian about this, they said that this would never happen. Meanwhile, this possibility is discussed on blogs and among experts as well…

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