Image Courtesy of eaworldview.com
To put it bluntly, it’s been a little hard to lead Egypt lately. Mubarak left in February 2011 and Morsi came in in June 2012, but a little over a year later the military kicked him out. Since then, the name of the game has been pro-Morsi, or “anti-coup,” protests answered by harsh military crackdowns.
The new man to know? General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a major player in this summer’s coup. As the new state media darling, every Egyptian knows his name. He has even been hinted as a possible candidate in the presidential elections scheduled for next year.
Despite crackdowns, the military has failed to stabilize the nation. The Sinai Peninsula is proving more and more lawless every day, as the military cracks down harshly and indiscriminately on a claimed militant threat. Further, this Sunday, the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, saw clashes erupt between two groups: pro-Morsi protesters and soldiers supported by loyalist civilians. The prospect of at least 51 dead and over 250 injured raises major concerns that the violence is far from over.
Despite the bloodshed, Egypt is no nearer to stability or democracy. In fact, democracy seems to be out of the question as of now. There is no criticism of the government from the state media, the owners of which appear to be snugly in the pockets of el-Sisi and his government. A leaked video shot last winter shows el-Sisi addressing concerns raised by Egyptian officers regarding increased media scrutiny as a result of the newly elected government. El-Sisi calms them with this: “It takes a very long time until you possess an appropriate share of influence over the media.” Perhaps the passing of the summer and his flexing during the coup was all the convincing the media moguls needed.
Indeed, it appeared to be all most Egyptians needed. Pro-Morsi demonstrations have dwindled in attendance and frequency, perhaps a result of seeing fellow protesters shot in the head or perhaps because it’s easier to stay home and ride it out. Those Egyptians who feared the radicalism of the Muslim Brotherhood and the exclusivity and impending tyranny of the Morsi administration see the military as a neutral and perhaps even beneficial force. Or maybe they just fear it too much.
I don’t know. I look at Egypt and I see fear. I see the protesters killed in the streets and I see their fear, but also their courage to fight for something greater than them. Here we Americans sit, moaning about our government’s petty and paltry squabbles while real people die every day in Egypt fighting to create what we take for granted: a social contract fair to them. Many Egyptians hate the lies and half-truths of the state media, the brutal treatment awaiting anyone bold enough to get arrested, the violence in the streets, and the fact that there are still no jobs.
But what can they do? A people must be allowed to self-determine their destiny as a society. Elections were held. Results were disputed. The leader let power get to his head and democracy seemed to crumble. The constitution seemed a failure to many. But still: elections were held. And yet, the government is now run by the military. Soldiers fill the streets, arrests take place daily, and the Muslim Brotherhood (a major winner in the elections) has been forced underground. What are Egyptians to do? Some take to the streets to fight for change. Others take to the streets to stop them. The violence continues.
And so, is democracy dead in Egypt? Some believe it died when Morsi left. Others believe it will die if el-Sisi becomes president. But I believe that democracy dies when even a minority of the people fears their government. If Egypt becomes a democracy next year, it will be a resurrection.