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Friday, May 19, 2006

The Way We Are

Moved on! Check TheCairoCalls

This is a copy an email I wrote to Kevin from LeanLeft in response to a question he posed about the judiciary struggle in Egypt. This was written almost a week ago, so it doesn't include the ruling of the disciplinary committee on Thursday (which decided to blame one of the judges -Bastawisi-, while acquitted the other)

"I come from a small country".
Here is a declaration that could get me in all sorts of trouble with the Egyptian fascinista.
Watching the evening news on Egyptian TV, or reading the state owned newspapers, you get the feeling that Egypt is as developed a country as they come. They're always talking about how great the achievements of this country, how defiant we are to the forces of reality, how unyielding we are to all sorts of challenges, and how our great history sets the tone for our even greater future. All of course is done under the wise leadership, and shrewed management of Egypt's greatest Pharoh...err...I mean president Husni Mubarak.
(Americans: stop me when it gets too familiar)
Without going into much details let me give you a quick round up of Egyptian politics during the last century (yeah!). The British were occupying Egypt. Nationalistic Liberal opposition was gaining traction in the Egyptian street at the dawn of the century. It managed to revolt against the British in 1919, and subsequently forced them to declare Egypt as a sovereign state in 1922. Egypt had a democratically elected Parliament, and parties which took turns forming governments. The king was a bit corrupt, and the English (although declared Egypt independent) didn't leave, so a group of officers staged a coup d'etat (another death sentence if you uttered that on state TV--blessed revolution is more like it). Military men ruled. Nasser and Sadat oppressed the people because "no sound should be louder than that's of the battle with Israel". While Mubarak, coming after the peace treaty with Israel, oppressed people under the context of fear of Islamic terrorists. Needless to say, those terrorists gained grounds in the Egyptian street because of the years of oppression and minimal development. Through it all of course, all powers of liberal opposition were utterly, and completely crushed. (I realize this is a gross over simplification of around 80 years of history....whatever!)
So we're now in this situation, where Mubarak has been ruling for over 25 years and he is gleefully grooming his son to succeed him. Happy ending? Nah
Thousands of miles away, a certain president Bush undertook the holy mission of dropping 'the shimmering lights of freedom' on the middle east. He places a call to Mubarak down in Egypt, telling him to essentially 'give the people a break'. Unprecedented demonstrations erupt everywhere in Egypt. Nobody can believe whats happening. What was a bit more than a wet dream under the emergency law (a law that effectively overrides the constitution for the sake of the president) had become a reality. The police was actually protecting the demonstrators not beating the living hell out of them (you have to live 50 years under police rule to understand who big this is) We thought we're suffering a mass illusion. But apparently it was true. Mubarak announced that we'll have a multi-candidate presidential elections!! HURRAY! (tailored to fit the ruling party candidate, but every step count doesn't it?) On top of that, judges, instead of police, will supervise DOUBLE HURRAY!! They will even supervise the following parliamentary elections HURRAY HURRAY HURRAY!!
Right? Nah...
Some judges smelled a rat. Well, smell is an understatement. They actually saw one...a huge one indeed. Polls were rigged by police, voters were prevented access to polling stations, and some candidates were even arrested on the night of the elections. A list surfaced with the names of the judges who were in cahoots with the government to fix the results in favor of the NDP (ruling party). The NDP won around 80%, while the Muslim brotherhood (the islamist 'banned' party that is gaining the most support in the street, I'll have to admit) won around 20%. Anyways, when the list went out, a couple of judges ( Mahmud Mekki and Hisham Bastawisi) asked that those judges be investigated to either clear the side of the judges, or punish those responsible to maintain the credibility of a whole branch of the government. So, what do you expect to happen? The minister of justice (appointed by the president) orders the two judges (who demanded the investigation!!) to face a disciplinary committee (and eventually be ejected!)
The judges (all of them) decided that that was too much, and decided to strike back. They decided to strike in the 'Judges Club' (their semi-formal professional association), and to press for more Judicial freedom from the executive (how can a minister (executive) be able to eject a judge?!). Their voice was heard in the street.
Demonstrators from all different political inclinations, took the judges' club as a symbol of resistance to the oppressive regime, and as a scene for lots of anti-Mubarak demonstrations. This time the police was true to form. Excessive violence was used against peaceful demonstrators, hundreds were arrested, and the judges were denied access to the court house where the disciplinary committee sessions took place.
Some people attribute this backlash to the fact that the US is reliving the regime from pressure, now that they know that the Muslim Brotherhood will rule if a democratic elections took place in Egypt. Some people think that the reason is that Gamal is getting ready to fill the big shoes. Others just think the government went crazy!
Well, where does that leave us now?
On the micro level, the showdown continues; the Judges' Club is still under the siege of very aggressive security forces, and all is set for a magnificent showdown on may 25th (anniversary of the constitution amendment that allowed multi-candidate elections, and which the opposition thinks that it places too much restrictions on the right for anybody to run for the elections) between the judges and protesters on one side and the government police, and plain clothed thugs on the other.
On the greater scale however, this is a very decisive battle for the whole region. It is a battle for the clear definition of authorities between the different branches in government. Egypt is a very diverse, populous country which has huge influence on the culture of the region. A democratic opening in Egypt, would surely inspire a lot of people in places like Syria, and Saudi Arabia to actually stand up and demand more rights. It's a battle between people who want the constitution to be upheld, and others who actually cheer for an emergency law that gives excessive powers to a single person (the president).
What do we need from non-Egyptians out there? I think we can't ask for more than the assurance that there are other people in the world who support our struggle. Who think that we deserve more than just being a factor in an intricate balance of power in this region. We need to know that their are people out there who support our movement, because it makes sense, and not only political convenience.
I have written about NSA wiretapping, and Bush's imperial powers, not because of some sort of fascination or attachment to America, but rather because I believe that as free people Americans deserve much better than their current leadership. I (and every level-headed person in this country) need to know that their are other people out there who think that we deserve just the same.

Bonus Link

Moved on!

3 Comments:

this is short but still can do !

By Anonymous dermact, at May 20, 2006 4:01 AM  

good summary of the whole situation!

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By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 18, 2010 12:27 PM  

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