On January 28, 2011, after killing hundreds of revolutionaries, the Egyptian security forces retreated from the scene, suffering a huge emotional defeat after revolutionaries took over important squares all over the country. During the months to come, they would rarely appear on the streets of Egypt’s major cities, seemingly hoping that the country would descend into chaos. It would appear, however, that instead of mere moping, they spent the months between February 2011 and June 2013 regrouping. Now, under the leadership of General Al-Sisi, a leader even more ruthless than ousted President Mubarak if that is even possible, the Egyptian security forces have staged a comeback as no other. The twist is that they now have the support of a large portion of the Egyptian population.
The telltale signs of Mubarak’s former regime are all there:
- Churches are burning and sectarian violence has returned.
- The fear of the Shiites is stronger than ever in the hearts of Sunni Egyptians.
- Opposition media have all been shut down while the majority of remaining media organizations are towing the military’s line.
- Men in civilian clothing are present with the Egyptian security forces during all standoffs, standing with and shooting from among their ranks.
- Claims of a need to clamp down on terrorists are being used to impose control over a whole country through martial law and curfews.
- Egypt’s jails are overflowing with political prisoners.
- Every kind of rumor imaginable with barely any evidence to back it is making the rounds among the Egyptian public.
And today we hear news of Mubarak’s imminent release after judges cleared him from a second corruption case.
When the good times arrive, they arrive in a flood.
The current military regime and the security forces are in no way the only ones to blame for the deterioration of the situation in Egypt. The Egyptian Revolution has witnessed almost three full years now of mismanagement by activists, politicians, intellectuals, the media, and on top of them all: the Muslim Brotherhood.
And within this general context, criminals and yes, terrorists, have found a ripe environment to thrive in.
The real problem is that it seems that we never learn. After three years of committing one major fuck-up after another, one would think that anyone holding a claim to the 2011 Revolution would see a need to stop whatever it is they are doing, take a big step back, and try to figure out what needs to be done to get democracy back on track. One wonders, though, if it actually was democracy that many revolutionaries wanted after all.
In recent days I have heard some Egyptians claim that the 2011 Revolution was not about democracy. Democracy, they explain, is a Western ideology that as a concept does not even exist in reality. What Egyptians want, they say, is stability. And if that means killing hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters, then so be it. We never liked them much anyways. Whether that brings stability or endless vendettas and thus more instability instead, no one seems to consider.
Was it democracy that revolutionaries wanted, or was it a simple swap of power? Revolutionaries completely failed to form a coalition, whether one together with the Muslim Brotherhood after they came to power or one to face the Muslim Brotherhood and a former Mubarak minister with a strong following during the presidential elections in 2012. The revolutionaries’ reluctance to form a united coalition and President Morsi’s and his party’s actions throughout 2012/2013 strongly suggest that it was power that many were after, not democracy.
So where does this leave us?
We are witnessing a maniacal power grab that has the potential to destroy our country. Brutal violence is being conducted by the (current) State against any and all opposing voices. The non-Islamist opposition, already fragmented of their own doing, have been rendered impotent. Whether the Muslim Brotherhood can retain control over all its members is questionable. It is unclear at this stage whether there is any truth to claims that Muslim Brotherhood members are responsible for the burning of churches and the torture and killing of civilians. It is likely, nevertheless, that some of this violence originates from people with Islamist backgrounds, although they are most probably not centrally organized or approved by the Muslim Brotherhood leadership.
To stabilize the country, we are in desperate need of a clean police force and a fair judiciary. Neither exists at the moment. Any attempts to purify either from the outside have failed and will continue to fail. This is a battle that must be fought from within.
When the day comes that the rule of law can be applied in our country, we will have hope. We will have hope for stability and security. We will have hope for justice. We will have hope to develop and subsequently function within a constitutional framework.
Democracy, whether we all want it or not, cannot function within a military/police state void of a fair judiciary. It is impossible.
And so we must wait. We must wait for the righteous amongst our security forces and amongst our judiciary to awaken to the crucial role that they must play to prevent a country from spinning out of control. There are righteous amongst them. Let us hope that there is a critical mass that has the strength and insight required to save a nation.
In the meantime, it is time for the 2011 revolutionaries to take that step back and regroup. This cannot possibly be done while protests continue on the streets; protests that we now know will be met with brutal force. It is time for re-evaluations. It is time for learning lessons. It is time to put aside differences and to come together for a common cause. Perhaps one of our major problems is that we do not yet have a common cause. So let us work on establishing and defining one that we can all agree on and start working slowly towards it, in a way that is non-reactionary to State bullying.
We have a long road ahead of us. We have always known it would be difficult. But right now, rather than working together to build a strong nation, we are willingly or unwillingly tearing our country apart. We must stop before it is too late.