The Arab Spring chokes in Egypt

It's almost as if the revolution against Mubarak was pointless. Egypt is more repressive now than it was when he was in charge. But some Egyptians are still not prepared to give up

Remember February 2011?
On 1 May 2014 11:33

In her article ''Taking out the trash: Youth clean up Egypt after Mubarak'', Jessica Winegar wrote: ''On February 12, 2011, thousands of Egyptians flooded into Tahrir Square to celebrate the previous night's ouster of Husni Mubarak, their country's dictator of thirty years. It was an unusually bright and clear-skied Cairo Saturday, full of promise of a new Egypt. 

"From atop the October 6 bridge that spans the 'Abd al-Mun'im Riyad portion of Tahrir, where just nine days earlier government-paid attackers had rained down ammunition upon pro-democracy demonstrators in the most brutal battle of the revolution, one could see dozens of crews of young people cleaning the square.''

Yes, cleaning the square was not pointless. It sent a very strong and clear message to the whole world that we, Egyptians, love our country, that we are all in the same boat, and that we are in the streets to fix our country. The April 6 Youth Movement was seen as a moral and patriotic movement.

Even the Muslim Brotherhood was then seen as a moral and patriotic group. Some Westerners even talked about the Brotherhood as being similar to European Christian Democrats. We all succeeded in restoring Egypt from the dictator, in winning the framing war, and in shattering the police state that kept the dictator in power. The air was full of the promise of a new Egypt. Egypt became a moral beacon to the world.

We, Egyptians, were heading toward change, hope, and prosperity. For the first time in our lives, we breathed the air of democracy. We learned personal and social responsibility. We learned how to care for oneself and for those around us. For the first time in our lives, we, Egyptian voters, felt that our votes were valuable. For the first time in our lives, we, Egyptians, chose our president, a civil president.

In cafes, homes, streets, and on TV channels, we learned how to criticize those in power. We were no longer afraid to pronounce the name of the president. We were no longer afraid to shout ''freedom.'' 

Then, on July 3, 2013 the coup occurred against the first democratically-elected president, and the Egyptian dream turned into a nightmare (not, of course, that the Muslim Brotherhood in government behaved like angels!) The sky of Cairo went gloomy and bloody. The framing war began again. The pro-democracy demonstrators were depicted as terrorists. The streets belonged no more to the people. And protests have been outlawed. The square was taken and stolen.

Furthermore, the army and police killed at least 3,000 innocent protesters at Rabaa and Nahda Squares. More than 2,500 political activists, including those of the April 6 movement, and foreign journalists were detained. The West got demonized. The Muslim Brotherhood was designated as a terrorist group. The state of emergency was announced for three months. The military and police state returned, killing any hope for change.

Moreover, the judicial system got politicized. More than 1,200 protesters, including the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie, were sentenced to death in a two-day trial. All activities of April 6 and the Muslim Brotherhood were banned on charges of spying and collaborating against the country.

''To sentence anyone to death without an exhaustive inquiry into their individual culpability is a violation of fundamental human rights.  It does not seem possible that a court could sentence 700 people to death in one proceeding and do justice,'' Prof. David Rossman of the Boston University School of Law confirmed to me.

"These latest developments are very worrying and counter-productive,'' Prof. Aled Griffith of the Bangor University School of Law told me.

According to Dr. George Lakoff, a distinguished professor of cognitive science, ''the point of a trial is to guarantee fairness, which is conceptualized metaphorically as fairness or symmetry (think of the statue of Justice blindfolded and holding the scales). ''

But the Egyptian system of justice introduces the following asymmetries, which remove fairness:

1. The system allows the judge to decide the case. The judge is seen as a strict-father who knows right from wrong. He is both judge and jury. He is both peer-reviewer and scientific committee. Thus, he can exclude crucial evidence to the case, leading to a dismissal of the case and a victory of the defendant.


2. Trial law is supposed to lead to fairness, minimizing the determinative effect of the political stances of rich and powerful people. But, because policymakers beholden to powerful political and economic interests can appoint judges to the bench, the system allows those interests to have full power to determine the outcomes of a wide range of cases.


In fact, the military-backed government has redefined the January 25 democratic revolution. Their new “democracy” is the democracy of no care, no trust, no freedom, no nurturance, no love, and no opposition. It is this ''democracy'' that has produced the Egyptian Nightmare that so many of our citizens are living through. 

Now, many Egyptians are disappointed to the extent that they miss Mubarak's era. Whenever you say ''Mubarak was a tyrant and a dictator,'' they say ''At least, his era was better; we got nothing from the revolution''― for sure Mubarak is now happy and for sure he has a hand in what is happening, especially when he sees the military back in power. Whenever you talk about hope and change, they would say Saad Pasha (the first leader of Egyptian nationalism) said, ''There is no use.'' 

Finally, there are for sure still some Egyptians full of hope. They take to the streets every day to let their voices be heard. I call on those pro-democracy protestors not to give up. We dare not give up. The alternative is the nightmare. Death sentences and political arrests must not intimidate us.

The writer, currently based in Europe, is an Egyptian poet, actor, and political intellectual

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