I was prompted to write this post after having a conversation with an expat currently working in Egypt about the current political situation. His position puts him in contact with a variety of people including western diplomats in Cairo. To my surprise he shared with me that some of those diplomats are livid with the current opposition represented by Baradei, Sabahi and Amr Moussa, claiming that they increase polirization and push Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood more towards the Salafists. That they should aim more at dialogue with Morsi rather than oppose him and that the focus should be on the next parliament and other democratic institutions. And of course that the judiciary opposing Morsi today is mostly ramnants of the old regime.
So i decided as someone who believes in the revolution and has been active in the revolution as an individual, as well as in social movmenets and a political party to try and make it clear why all the above is simply not an accurate representation of the sitution.
First of all let’s talk about dialogue:
Since Morsi came to power and throughout the process of writing the constitution, the presidency has engaged with many groups and political representatives to discuss the constitution. From women rights activists to social movmeents to political parties all agreed that they expressed themselves very freely but nothing came out of it. There was no response and no action on the ground, whether related to the composition of the assembly (as Morsi promised during his election campaign) or specific articles in question. Furthermore, in November Morsi invited previous presidential candidates for individual meetings, where Baradei, Sabahi and Moussa all accepted the invitation and attended those meetings. The result? Nothing. Or actually the result was a constitutional declaration by Morsi on 22nd November where among other decisions he gave himself absolute immunity from judicial review until a new parliament is in place!
Now nobody is contesting that Morsi is a democratically elected president, however he has not be elected God to do as he pleases without even the possibility of judicial review! If we would’ve accepted this then it would’ve meant a new dictator clear and simple, one person who has the right to do anything without being opposed. At this point in time there was no room for dialogue, the declaration had to go. So after calling the opposition agents of anything and everything from foreign nations to the NDP (notice the re-emergence of the Mubarak rhethoric), Morsi replaced that declaration with a new one that doesn’t include immunity to his decisions.
Now let’s talk about violence:
I want to talk here specifically about the clashes that took place on 5th December at the presidential palace called Al-Itihadeyya. In many cases violence broke out in Egypt over the last couple of years, things were burned, people fought, were detained etc.
However what happened at Al-Itihadeyya was not random violence, it amounted to an attack by militias. On 5th Dec there was a sit-in by the palace to protest Morsi’s latests decision. The sit-in consisted of around 15 tents and a small number of protests (in the 100s). Starting midday the social media networks were full of news that the Muslim Brotherhood were preparing to take out the sit-in (you just might wonder like I did with which authority would they do that?). The tweets of the young MB members were appaling, one religious quote kept appearing “koteba alaykom al qital”, i.e. fighting or war was written upon you! A couple of hours later the attack began. One source told me 20,000 MB members were called for this task. Regardless of the numbers, as you can watch with a simple search on youtube, the tents were taken down by the MB members who had their batons ready, chased away some protestors and captured others. As this was unfolding more and more people headed to the palace to support the protestors and as anyone with an internet connection or a TV could watch the fighting taking place till dawn of the next day. The result was several deaths, hundereds of injured and documented torture cases by the MB of anyone they could capture. Moreoever, the MB detained over 100 protestors and kept them till the next day when they handed them to the police. Of course with all of them carrying signs of beatings and no evidence against them they were mostly released by the prosecutor ( a decision he suffered professional consequences for from the new public prosecutor who demanded they be re-detained since Morsi claimed they were part of a conspiracy and this was now proving him wrong).
Let’s talk about the revolution:
Let’s get one thing straight: this is not an Islamic revolution, neither a revolution of the Muslim Brotherhood. Actually, for most if not all revolutionary forces by now the Muslim Brotherhood have long left the revolution camp. Since March 2011 the MB have worked with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) to promote their constitutional changes that led us into the current situation. The MB sold out the revolution at various points: Mohamed Mahmoud clashes 1 and 2, Cabinet clashes, Maspero massacre and others. Their focus first and foremost was elections, not change, just elections. No position was ever taken to jeorperdize the date of elections or their ability to compete. No matter how many people died at the hands of the police or the army, how many lost their eyes or were paralyzed, the Muslim Brotherhood looked the other way if not outright attacked the protestors as aiming to sabotage….elections!
Remember the blue bra girl who was stopmed over by soldiers in tahrir square one year ago? The Islamists including the MB position on her was: it’s her fault, why was she there in the first place!! The MB have existed the revolution camp a long time ago.
And the constitution:
The constitution has many controversial issues that I’m not planning to go into. Apart from different views on sharia, which the Islamists are using as a propaganda tool, the opposition is really concerned about other items. For example the new constitition allows detention of citizens with no access to lawyers, family or prosecurtors for up to 12 hours, without even being informed of the reason of detention. The president retains vast powers and cannot be held accountable for his decisions. The salafists insisted on leaving out any mention of slavery, human trafficking or sexual exploitation as it could put practices of child marriage under prohibition, practices that they support. There is no article that mentions women rights. Forced labour is permitted within the law, and last but not least child labour is also permissable. These and other reasons related to both content and process of the constitution writing have driven the opposition to first demand delaying the referrandum to allow for a wider dialogue, but when Morsi insisted on maintaining the date, the opposition called for a “NO” vote. So far 44% of the votes refused the new constitution, which can neither be called remanents of the old regime nor unrepresentative noisy troublemakers!
And finally let’s talk about how this is all very personal:
As an Egyptian woman all the above issues are very relevant to me. I’m politically active and so I have an interest in not being threthened by arbitrary detention, where I can disappear for 12 hours without anyone knowing where I am. Also I go to marches and I refuse to accept that to this day you can lose your life while protesting peacfully in the streets of the capital.
In the private sphere, I am a woman and a feminist. I refuse to surrender to a system that turns a blind eye to harrasers in the name of religion, i’m not talking about sexual harraseement (this is another big issue in Egypt), but those who appoint themselves as “preventers of vice” (earlier this year a student was killed by 3 of them in Suez for standing on the street with a girl). I refuse to allow complete strangers (or anyone for that matter) to tell me how to dress, behave or work. I refuse to allow extremists to dictate the limits of freedom of expression and freedom of belief (google Albert Saber to learn how he received a 3 year sentence for posting on Facebook only days ago). I will not wait quietly on the sidelines while personal laws are changed to limit women rights and impose on them all kinds of restrictions. I refuse to give up my Egypt and watch it turn into another Iran.
In short, the West thinks of the situation in Egypt from a geopolitical point of view, Morsi was able to broaker a deal between Israel and Hamas and the US loved him for this. Other nations (not necessarily only western) value very much the stability of Egypt that contributes to the stability of the region. However, they are not interested in the civil liberties of egyptian citizens, in their personal rights and/or the country turning into a semi-theocracy. As long as the Egyptian administration manages to maintain stability in the region and security of the borders with Israel then that’s more than enough for most international powers.
I’m not asking for anyone to support us, I am only asking for my right to resist a fascist regime from taking over my country to be recognized. This revolution is not an Islamic revolution, this revolution was sparked by social movments who are intersted in freedom and social justice. I believe in democracy and change for Egypt, and I retain my right to fight for an Egypt where all citizens are equal and free from oppression.