Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Our error

By „our“ I refer to people like me, who grew up in the West with liberal and democratic backgrounds. Therefore, I guess I am not the only one.

By „error“ I refer to all those hopes for a better (Arab) world projected into our minds by the media when the term „Arab spring“ became a meaning. At the latest in November 2010 I started to ask myself how long it would take until the Egyptians would get up jointly to rebel against the dictatorship; now, after more than three years, I feel disappointed and frustrated, sometimes sad. But I am not alone, here as well.

Egyptians will probably not so soon feel as united, hopeful, proud and happy as they did during the demonstrations after the 25 January 2011 and until Mubarak’s overthrow. Those were thrilling days charged with emotions. Built-up during decades, suppression, fury and anger about injustice and despotism finally found a way out. All Egypt burst with joy and celebrated the alleged triumph. A wave of enthusiasm splashed over the country: streets were swept, garbage was cleared away and at one go with the dead buried, harm was put away.

The huge hope for equity, an honest Egypt and a better live were smashed with specific and terrible events and lay astray like broken fragments after a bomb raid. Today, more than three years later, Egypt is further away from a state of law, democracy and respect for human rights than it was in January 2011. Instead, it is celebrating another dictator and considers him as their saviour.

None of the many of Egypt’s problems have been resolved and none of the people’s demands have been fulfilled. The transitional and elected governments came and supported the regime – yet not the revolution. The revolutionaries are locked behind bars, disappointedly turned their backs, flew abroad or got killed. The state is de facto bankrupt and is being kept alive by foreign financial backers. Are the people too weak?

Everything according to plan
What went wrong? Nothing! Everything went according to plan. Please bother and have a look at previous revolts of the Egyptian people: people took to the streets and chanted their demands. The regime quelled the riot with brutal police power, tortured and killed. In order to justify the violence, an “enemy” was invented – Islamists, Israel, foreign agents, spies and the USA. In order to calm down the crowd, small improvements were made: subsidies increased, prices reduced. A lot was promised – nothing realised.

Here is an excerpt from “1977: The lost revolution” by Hossam el-Hamalawy, Arabawy.org: 

“…In Giza Square, bloody clashes took place between the police and the demonstrators, turning the square into a battlefield….
… The Giza demonstrations headed to the president’s house, which was near Cairo University. Students chanted anti-government slogans, criticizing Sadat himself, calling for the resignation of the government since the “Egyptian people are not in need of a government which steals their bread! By the night of 19 January, the regime cancelled its decrees that triggered the events and ordered army units to descend to the streets to crack down on the demonstrations. ….
…. Violent demonstrations continued in Cairo and Alexandria yesterday till late at night. Many [demonstrators] were killed and injured, in addition to the arrest of hundreds.”

And an excerpt from “1977: Egypt’s bread intifada” on libcom.org: 

“… Owing to the savagery of the state response to the insurrection, it is estimated that around 800 people were killed during the uprising with hundreds more injured.”

The articles match with the recent events and will match for the forthcoming as well. Until something really changes. It is not that the people are too weak, but the regime is too strong!

The power of the regime
Egypt will soon be home to 90 million people. Half of them live in poverty and again half of them do not know how to appease their hunger. There is no space left for education. Teachers occupy second and third jobs and publish books as a preparation method for exams – guess the quality of their lessons. Religion plays an important part in Egyptians’ lives. This mix of lack of education and piety is impudently utilized to manipulate the people. The bishop, priests, sheiks and imams assist meaning to support stability. Would they stage protest, the situation would escalate.

The apparatus of state is bloated; clerks glue to their poorly paid jobs and therefore prop up their superiors. They in turn also bow upwardly so that they might profit from advantages. This is how the chain of submissiveness continues and where each link turns and twists itself according to the current strong men.

These are the army – the state within the state – and a handful of superrich. They own real estates, factories, licences, posh residential complexes, hotel resorts, toll roads and bridges and many more. Nothing happens without them – everything through them. At their service are the ministry of interior with the police, security units, intelligence, jails and torture chambers as well as the judiciary. Another means of manipulation are the media who are “veritable propaganda machines” (quote by Hani Shukralla, a well-known Egyptian journalist). Both – the army and the superrich – are highly interested in the often mentioned “stability”; everything is to be remained as it is. One good turn deserves another, and together, they increase their infinite wealth and influence. In doing so, they get sustained by foreign countries either from the West, from the East or from the Arabs, depending on the global political situation:

The opposition
The few that are really keen on tackling Egypt’s serious problems (still) don’t have a chance. They are getting wiped out by the arbitrary judiciary or forced to exile. It never ceases to amaze me how naively Egyptians continue believing the promises of the present or future ruler. How can they forget within months and years the mischief they have been done to? How could the activists from the 25 January 2011 trust the military and the SCAF? After Mubarak’s overthrow, all Egyptians loved their Army. They had already forgotten that the army had not intervened when protesters were pelted with Molotov-cocktails, met their death underneath rock debris and by the hand of snipers. Once they realised their error, it was already too late. The military had never ceded their power and continued pulling strings from the background.

On 30 July 2013, millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demand new presidential elections and because they were discontented with Morsi and his Muslim brothers as well as the excessive violence and the governance. Three days later, “the general” (El Sisi) appeared and asked the people for support. Meanwhile rumours have it that particular members from Tamarod had been bought by the regime and had played into the hands of the military. The consequence was the “coup of 3 July 2013” or “counter-revolution” as it is called today. The “El Sisi iconic” spread and everybody loved the army chief, who is President now. People forgot that El Sisi was a member of SCAF during the transition period in 2011 and that he justified the “virgin-tests” by the army personnel.

People like me cannot comprehend this. I really do not understand how someone can simply erase from memory all violence, suppression and injustice witnessed during decades. I would like to tell a small example from my personal environment:

When Morsi and with him the Muslim brothers came to power, the security guard in my compound proudly told me that he was proud of Morsi, that he loved him and that everything would be all right, God willing. Why did I object to Morsi? When Morsi was dethroned by army chief El Sisi, he happily told me, that it was good to know that Morsi and his gang were finally removed. Now, everything would be all right, God willing. When El Sisi became President, my guard rejoiced and said, that everything would be all right. He loved El Sisi and hung a poster in the guard house. Why did I object to El Sisi? El Sisi was a good man and he would finally resolve all the problems of the country.

By the way, the takeover was actively supported by the Coptic Church and Al Azhar.

Mature for democracy or not?
We however, who more or less grew up with democracy, liberty and justice, we imagined that the uproar in Egypt would take place on a similar political stage set up according to human rights. We thought that politicians would fight a duel by fair means at speaker’s desks and at ballot boxes after some initial gun battles; we thought that activists first demonstrated in the streets and then would be invited into committees to bring in their ideas of the changes needed and only the naughty Islamists would kill all joy. We had a wrong notion of that reality because our reality appears completely different – our error and our disappointment are the consequence. The regime’s interest, the businessmen’s interest and that of the foreign investors outweigh the good intentions of the human rights’ campaigner and activists.

The activists are desperately disappointed, some of them lost their lives: they knew their country and the political conditions, but they did not have enough political experience to implement what they were longing for – wherefrom should they? They, too, realised their error.
I never liked the question whether Egypt was mature for democracy or not. It’s not about democracy at all, but rather about who may continue to plunder the country.

Going on as hitherto?
Egypt’s problems are huge but homemade. El Sisi is being worshipped like a Pharaoh and uses the dash to implement short-term modifications (cleaning streets, removing illegal buildings, increasing traffic fines) and people applaud euphorically. On the other hand, he gives the judiciary and their arbitrariness carte blanche: judges sentence people to jail or to death upon flimsy accusations, just as the whim takes them. Egypt’s majority looks away.

Do I commit another error when doubting that this game of promises, suppression and injustice may continue?

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