Today’s Egypt is different from the one prior to the Arab Spring, glaringly obvious to most observers, but still a fact that eluded the players in the current violent situation.
Long gone are the days when the people blindly and trustingly went along with what their government told them; gone the days where the people felt helpless to affect change.
Egyptians are experienced in toppling government. Similarly to how Hosni Mubark was toppled and Mohammad Mursi ousted from power so will aggrieved Egyptians continue in the same fashion with the next government.
This transitional phase in Egypt’s political life is sensitive one and as the general population is casting their gaze towards the future so should the political players.
Just as the case had been for Mursi, military-backed interim government is not setting their sights on what the future holds. Even, international players are grappling to adjust to Egypt’s new reality.
Undoubtedly, the Egyptian military’s ousting of Mursi constituted a hopeful move that prevented the country from an unnecessary civil strife. But the short sightedness of the military-backed interim government in dealing with the legitimate grievances of Mursi’s supporters is actively moving the country toward civil unrest.
Egyptians extended a considerable amount of trust in an untested democratic system that shepherded in an Islamist government to rule Egypt. Mursi’s rule chipped away at that trust by dividing the country based on religious affiliation, or degree of such affiliation. Further, he failed to manage Egypt’s resources or to provide basic government and social services.
Unfortunately for Egyptians there were a number of factors conspiring against his rule from the very start. The conspiracies were fueled from within himself as well as the mentality of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mursi and his government had failed to recognize that they couldn’t continue to base their strategy on the same principles they’ve held since their inception as an oppressed group, having been victimized by the consecutive rules of Egypt throughout the last eight decades.
Instead of busying themselves with the issues of governance and social reform they were fixated on fighting and defending their rule. Blame shifting to Mubarak and his supporters lead the ruling party to implement strict and exclusionary policies resulting in alienating the majority of Egyptians. Unsurprisingly yet disappointingly the brand new democracy of Egypt continued downward on this precarious and destructive path until the June 30 demonstrations.
A year into Mursi’s rule predictions was bleak and the outcome of the democracy uncertain. The Military’s ousting of the Islamist rule was unexpected, but cautiously optimistic as it seemed to have prevented Egypt from a protracted violent outcome.
By most accounts, Egyptians and the world exhaled a collective sigh of relief at the military’s ability to unceremoniously remove Mursi without major violence and bloodshed; however greatly underestimated the reaction of Mursi’s supporters bringing us to present day.
You don’t need to be a supporter of Mursi or the Muslim Brotherhood to recognize their grievances. In fact, those of us who believe in democracy were indignant by the ousting of Mursi (although no love was lost when he was gone). No doubt, it’s easy for me to be unhappy as I write these words in Washington, DC, but no one said that establishing a democracy is easy or neat.
Regardless, the military-backed interim government chose to revert to the tried and proven ways of the past electing to institute a state of emergency and impose a curfew. This proves that they too are having a problem moving forward and recognizing the new reality on the ground; that ruling with an iron fist is no longer an option. Imposing a state of emergency is a relic that has outlived its usefulness.
Egyptians are empowered after toppling the Mubarak regime and no longer can be intimidated by fear tactics or dissuaded by the threat of violence. This holds true for Mursi’s supporters as well who are not allowed the basic right to voice their opinions or state their position.
Sooner or later a truce will have to be reached welcoming back Mursi’s supporters to the fold. If the military backed interim government doesn’t take proactive political steps to reach out to those supporters and their leaders they will have to deal with them on a security level.
Taking away political activism, including demonstrations, will lead Mursi’s group to rely on terrorist tactics in order to be heard and recognized. By no means will the interim government be able to silence those protesters, enabled and emboldened by the power of the Arab Spring.
Egypt will afford to fall into a protracted low grade civil war or to accept ongoing terrorist acts as the status quo. In actuality, the region can’t afford such instability in Egypt. Its strategic importance and influence in the Middle East makes it hard for the global community to stand by watching idly as the situation unfolds.
The American president, Barack Obama, interrupted his vacation to deplore the crackdown against protesters. Unfortunately, that is not enough. As with Mursi and the Egyptian military, the Obama administration is beholding to the ways of the past. It continues with its reactionary style favoring stability over principled policy positions. The U.S. needs to take an active diplomatic role in Egypt. On numerous levels, U.S. interests in the region are connected to Egypt wellbeing not least of which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Many have accused the United States of fantastical conspiracies and assigned blame for its political stances toward the Middle East no matter how contradictory they may sound. Walking on eggshells to attempt avoiding being accused for meddling in Middle Eastern affairs is a self-defeating strategy.
The United States has interest in the region and needs to own up to that fact without resorting to naive public relations campaign. The Obama administration needs to do more than cancelling previously scheduled joint military exercise with Egypt; it needs to say in no uncertain terms to Egypt’s military-backed interim government that it will not stand for a revival of oppressive governance.
As for the interim government, it needs to recognize that they cannot marginalize Mursi’s supporters, or any other group within its borders. The only way available, if they are working for Egypt’s future, is to accept Mursi’s supporters as part of Egypt’s political fabric. Once this part of the equation is established all must work for the rights of other minorities. Democracy is majority rule, but it doesn’t mean alienating or oppressing minorities.
By: Walid Jawad
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