Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Egypt's State of Emergency Continues

According to the Daily News Egypt, The cabinet has approved the establishment of a fact-finding committee to investigate the violence occurring on June 30th and subsequent weeks.  Egypt’s interim Prime Minister, Hazem al-Beblawi, explained that the state of emergency was extended due to security issues, and cited several acts of violence and terrorism. The cabinet has further stated that the Prosecutor General specifically carried out the startling number of arrests, and that those detained were charged with  criminal offenses. The interim cabinet has commissioned the National Council for Human Rights to collect and record data from the events that followed Morsi’s ouster, including several violent altercations.

There is growing unrest related to the extended state of emergency. The April 6 Youth Movement  called for a protest, scheduled in Talaat Harb Square in downtown Cairo on Monday evening. This is amid increasing calls for the release of what are perceived as random arrests and for stopping military trials for civilians.The Muslim Brotherhood has also issued statements condemning the extended state of emergency.

While the Presidential spokesman, Ihab Badawi, has stated that there was full support for the continuance of the state of emergency, several political figures have voiced concerns over a potential abuse of power, and human rights violations that may have occurred within this volatile timeframe. Interim President issued Presidential order 532 on Thursday stating that the state of emergency will continue for at least two months. The abolition of the law, which has been in force on and off since 1958, was one of the key demands of the 2011 Revolution. 

It remains unclear how the work of the National Council for Human Rights committee will impact this dialogue, however, their research, particularly the rehashing on several deadly clashes, may serve to further intensify this debate.

Another hot issue: Some of the latest in Egypt is related to the land dispute between Nile University and Zewail City for Science and Technology.  Former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif gave a plot of land over to Nile University in 2006 that had had been designated for the Zewail City of Science and Technology project in 2000. After the January 25th revolution, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf granted the land back to Zewail City  and moved Nile University over to Smart Village instead. However, the Nile University campus was already built in that space and ready for use. Nile University students have hosted sit-ins at the campus, demanding use of the facilities.  A short-term solution for what has been deemed "the Nile University crisis" has been rejected. The disputed land now hosts two hotly contested buildings. Nile students have not yet been granted access to the disputed buildings. Zewail City accepted 300 students into the contested buildings at the beginning of its first academic year on Sunday.

Many thanks to my wonderful GA, Neena. 


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Egypt Independent Says Farewell in a blaze of Glory

Coming up on about a week now, it was announced throughout the world that Egypt’s main independent English language news source, Egypt Independent, was to stop publication. 
This loss is particularly painful for me. I wrote several editorials for the Egypt Independent, and it was an important location for me both physically and intellectually during the Revolution and beyond. I am heartbroken .. . . 
American news outlets such as New York Times and the Wallstreet Journal spoke of the media outlet positively, citing that as it’s name suggested, was the country’s only true independent voice that reflected the expression of the revolutionary voices (Stack, 2013). In the last four years, Stack explains, the staff chronicled the waning days of the Mubarak regime, the outbreak of revolution in their own country and across the Arab world, military rule and most recently the administration of the first democratically elected Islamist leader of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi. The staff, which has been notably critical of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government, believes that it was shut down by the self-censorship of its sister paper Al-Masry Al-Youm (Habib, 2013). Investors of the paper and the sister company’s chairman, Abdel Moneim, cited financial difficulties for the reason of the closure and has not commented about the accusations that the closure was political. The Muslim Brotherhood also declined to comment on the situation (Habib, 2013). Egypt Independent is the second independent English-language publication to shut down in Egypt in the past year as The Daily News Egypt abruptly closed after a seven year run when investors also claimed unbearable financial losses (Stack, 2013).
On April 23, 2013 the latest edition of the paper, in fact it’s 50th edition, was sent to the presses and Al-Marsy Al-Youm “pulled the plug”, which the outlets editor in chief Lina Attalah stated she believed it was due to the editions’ scathing critiques of not just the government, but criticism of the parent company’s management and self-censorship (Habib, 2013).  Since President Morsi has taken office, the prosecutor general has summoned several journalist on charges of “insulting” the president. The administration is accused of intimidating reporters and inciting violence against them (Habib, 2013). This is not the first major incident of censorship or confrontation between the two media companies. In late 2011, Egypt Independent then referred to as- “Al-Marsy Al-Youm English Edition” broke partially away from its then-parent company as its content was “squashed” for being too critical of the government. During this confrontation, Egypt Independent announced the break and expressed they felt the revolution was incomplete and the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule was increasingly heavy handed. Supporters of the newspaper expressed their dismay of the recent closing. “After the revolution there was a flood of people who expressed what they wanted…but we’re beginning to see that this change wasn’t real and that we were fooled,” said Habiba Effat, 22 year old from Cairo (Habib, 2013).  
In a short statement called “Egypt Independent 2009-2013” the news outlet explained that they were not going down without a fight and pushed their last issue online and in PDF format.  The explained that this issue continued their standards of critical journalism, discussing issues that reflected the county’s challenges as well as those facing Egyptian media.
“Four years after the birth of Egypt Independent, the management of Al-Masry Media Corporation has informed our editorial team that our print and online news operation is being shut down. Because we owe it to our readers, we decided to put together a closing edition, which would have been available on 25 April, to explain the conditions under which a strong voice of independent and progressive journalism in Egypt is being terminated. The management, however, withheld the printing of this edition. While the print house received the final proofs on 23 April, management ordered a last-minute stoppage after scrutinizing the issue’s content. In keeping with our practice of critical journalism, we use our final issue to reflect on the political and economic challenges facing Egyptian media, including in our own institution” (Egypt Independent, 2013)
The articles in the last edition were understandably full of anger but also reflection. The staff spoke about the vision of the paper that denoted a commitment to professionalism and civil rights. They explained they were trying to be more than a “mouth-piece” for the state and the political parties (Stack, 2013). Attalah and other Egypt Independent discussed the closure via social media. Attalah that she considered one of the key questions for professional journalists to be, “How do we become active mediators as opposed to silent vehicles of information?” (Stack, 2013). Attalah promised that her staff would continue their work in some new form and that their leaders had not seen the last of them.

More news on the shutdown


Monday, April 1, 2013

Women's status, unrest in Cairo, and weakened protest rights

The Muslim Brotherhood has responded negatively to a newly ratified United Nations (UN) declaration, which seeks to end violence against women. They reject the declaration deeming it as misleading and deceptive and stating that it contradicts the principles of Islam and would destroy society. The National Council for Women (NCW) has dismissed the Brotherhood’s statements insisting the declaration advocates for law enforcement to execute plan to combat violence, while stressing equality in education, health, and human rights. Further, they state the claims made by the brotherhood that it violates Sharia are a “misuse of religion, and an attempt to tarnish the UN’s image in order to quash women’s rights.” Other groups see the “showdown” between the two groups as a stage due to Egypt signing the declaration, meaning the ruling party (Brotherhood) signed it, keeping appearances both internationally and locally.   Is the Brotherhood feigning a feud with the women’s council? By Dalia Rabie March 25, 2013)

The "Strong Egypt" Party launched an initiative in January called “Transportation that respects women” in an effort to alleviate sexual assault and other issues women face while in public. The microbuses are provided to offer an alternative to public transportation system that “is failing to provide a basic, respectable method of transport that meet women’s needs.” In a study conducted in Cairo and Monufiya universities, 68% of women said they had been subjected to either physical or verbal abuse. Private taxis are too expensive so many women are happy this new alternative is available to reduce the risk of harassment. However, some women’s-rights groups are concerned that it encourages gender discrimination and only treats the symptom of an overarching problem. ( Women only: Will a segregated transport system solve or perpetuate a problem? by Heba Helmy March 27, 2013) 

Meanwhile, two years after the revolution, street violence remains high, and the rule of law seems weak. 

At least 90 people were injured during clashes on Friday the 22nd between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and opponents. The opponents ransacked three of the brotherhood’s offices including their headquarters in Cairo. The Brotherhood’s spokesman said opponents attacked women who were holding mother's day commencements. Riot police defended the headquarters but did not interfere to break up the sides a few blocks away. The opposition demanded Morsi to be tried for the killings of protestors just like Mubarak. (Dozens injured as clashes erupt in Egypt  by Al Jazeera March 22, 2013)

Last week, a new round of clashes erupted in cities in northern Egypt, and protestors rallied in Cairo in the latest demonstrations against President Morsi. The clashes in Alexandria occurred between citizens, those who supported the Muslim Brotherhood, and those who oppose the group. At another location, anti-government protestors threw stones at offices that used to be home to the Brotherhood’s office before it was stormed a few weeks back. This halted train traffic for a few hours. In the Nile River Delta, protestors and riot police clashed in front of the office of Prosecutor General Talaat Abdullah. Early this week, Egypt’s prosecutor general issued warrants for five of Egypt’s most prominent advocates stating they instigated the violence over the past few months where hundreds have been injured. A few weeks ago members of the Brotherhood beat activists, including women, who were spray-painting anti-brotherhood graffiti outside their headquarters. Earlier this week, Morsi gave a speech calling his opposition thugs and warned foreign nations that are interfering in their domestic issues. “No one in our neighborhood wants this nation to stand on its feet. I will cut off any finger that meddles in Egypt.” ( Protestors rally in Cairo, clashes erupt in 2 other Egyptian cities in latest wave of unrest by Mohammed Khalil March 29, 2013)

Despite this tough talk by Morsi about foreign meddling, perhaps Morsi should work on cleaning his own house. 

Amnesty International is criticizing the Egyptian government for failing to protect Coptic Christians, the largest minority group in the country. There has been a rise in tension in religious communities and authorities have done little to relieve it. In February a Muslim woman was reported “missing” and accused a church of converting her to Christianity. Protest erupted demanding she be returned and the Coptic Christians leave the community. “Let the Christians die from fear” were common chants that were paired with anti-Christian leaflets distributed throughout public areas. After a week of protest and violence (shut down Christian stores and beat anyone who resisted), on March 25, a large group of Muslim men threw Molotov cocktails inside a Christian church and set fire the local priest’s car. Muslim and Christian elders met for a “reconciliation meeting” which agreements to allow Christian stores to reopen and for the missing woman to be returned by April 24 were made. Amnesty International state the response is poor and “reconciliation” should not be a replacement for prosecution of offenders of sectarian violence.    (Amnesty Slams Morsy for failing to protect Copts by Egypt Independent March 27, 2013)

Freedom of speech is increasingly restricted in Egypt. A draft that restricts the right to demonstrate has been approved by the Shura Council. The bill prohibits citizens from organizing protests that “pose a risk to the nation’s security.” To enforce this law, the police must approve all demonstrations three days in advance. All demonstrations must be 200 meters away from all governmental building. Anyone who violates this law will be sentenced to prison and a hefty fine.   (Shura Council passes law curbing protest rights Egypt Independent March 26, 2013)


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cancelled Elections and Violent Clashes

Violent clashes going on between central security forces and dozens of protesters at Kasr al-Nil bridge, Cairo, 11 March 2013. Photo Credit Hazem Abdel Hamid of the Egypt Independent.
Three topics are heatedly being discussed right now in Egypt: the cancelled parliamentary elections, steps towards economic reform, and police protests throughout the country. 

A top court cancelled parliamentary elections scheduled for April referencing confusion regarding election laws in the new constitution and political instability across the country. This decision launches Egypt’s political transition back into legal limbo, leaving the upper house (the Shura) as the temporary legislature. The street violence since late January and the anticipation of more violence add to the doubts about feasibility of holding a vote in certain parts of the country. Further, the National Salvation Front has declared it would boycott any lection, demanding the restoration of stability and the overhaul of Egypt’s new Constitution (NYT-Kirkpatrick). Cairo University professor, Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed explained that the decision to cancel the April legislative polls looks bad for Morsy. “It is a bad decision for the president and bolsters the feeling that his decisions are never thought out and that his advisers are not competent.” Other analysts offered similar sentiments that this is just another sign that Morsy’s presidency is failing (Daily-Star).

After months of teetering towards economic collapse, with soaring unemployment, a gaping budget deficit, and steep declines in the currency’s value (The Egyptian Pound) , Egypt is starting to get serious about economic reform. US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Egypt at the beginning of March and urged that the country needs to institute economic reforms and satisfy the conditions the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has set. IMF has agreed to give Egypt a loan for $4.8 billion if arrangements are met. Further, the U.S. and the European Union have stated they are prepared to provide substantial assistance if there is an agreement made between Egypt and IMF (NYT-Gordon). With agreements yet to be made, IMF offered Egypt a $750 million rescue credit, which it rejected. Egyptian Finance Minister El-Morsi Hegazy claimed that since the country has started implementing a full economic reform program, it was entitled to the larger loan by the IMF, not an emergency loan. He assures the country that talks will continue throughout this month (Aljazeera).

The police force was widely regarded to be the underpinning of former President Hosni Mubarak. The post-Revolution police force has continuously been accused of not reforming and cases have been cited throughout the country which accuse the police of being even worse since the 2011 revolution. Human rights groups accuse the police of acting like armed gangs, laying down collective punishment. Ahmed Helmy, Egypt’s deputy Minster of Interior, denies all claims of police abuse and states there is no evidence of such occurrences, just political conflicts (NPR).  Since January 6th, over 70 people have been killed during protests, which investigations are currently underway. Similarly, 16 policeman have been killed and almost a thousand injured in encounters with anti-regime protestor. Several police departments and security camps throughout the country staged strikes, demanding better arms to defend themselves as well as an end to the politicization of the force (Egypt Independent).

~WMB with assistance from Jillian Underwood 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Women in Egypt Two Years After the Revolution

Various organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations have expressed their concern with the epidemic of violence and sexual assault of women in Egypt. While harassment and gender inequity have persisted throughout Egypt for decades, the level of sexual assaults at anti-government demonstrations have risen both in numbers and intensity the past year reaching its height late January and early February 2013, which marked the two year anniversary since the fall of autocrat Mubarak (USAtoday). During a three-week period, dozens of women have reported being stripped, groped, and raped at demonstrations across Egypt.

Many activists exclaim that sexual harassment in Egypt is a reality and expect little to be done by police, but are refusing to be silenced. Throughout the world, people gathered outside Egyptian embassies in early February to denounce the occurrence of violence against women and particularly against female protestors (Trew). Statements made by the Shura council, the Salafi movement, other ultra-conservative Islamist that placed blame on the victims fueled the backlash of the violence. “They basically said that women are responsible for the horrendously violent attacks on Tahrir and said we should have specially designated areas for women to protest. We might as well have a separate Egypt for women,” said Mariam Kirollos, a member of the Human Rights Watch and a member of Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment movement (Trew). Some activists believe, and I think they are correct, that the attacks are aimed at excluding women from public places, silencing them and breaking their spirits. “Women have been a vital part of protests and have sacrificed much in their fight for freedom and social justice.  Egyptian authorities need to honour their activism and pull out all stops to address endemic violence against women in all echelons of society,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International (Amnesty International).

Groups such as the Tahrir Bodyguards who have promised to protect female demonstrators have offered self-defense courses and also patrol the square. Further, videos of the assaults and marches have taken place in order to raise awareness about this issue (USAtoday). The fact that women are coming forward to talk about their harassment is a good sign for Egypt as it is typically seen as taboo. Michelle Bachelet Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women urges Egyptian leaders to put in place the legislation and mechanisms that ensure the protection of women and children and for women to continue to fight for their rights. “As a vibrant force in civil society, women continue to press for their rights, equal participation in decision-making, and the upholding of the principles of the revolution by the highest levels of leadership in Egypt” (United Nations). 

My huge thanks to my GA Jillian Underwood, who helps me stay on task in the blogosphere!


Monday, February 18, 2013

Frustration with Morsy builds

Protest in front of Presidential Palace, February15, 2013
This week protests continued in Egypt.  February 11th marked the second anniversary of the  end of the Egyptian Revolution, the 18-day uprising that overthrew Mubarak. Since protests started again in late January, 2013 dozens have been killed and hundreds injured. There have been accusations of police brutality and other abuses by security forces in Egypt. While avoiding direct criticism of Morsy, representatives from the United States expressed concern about the climate and stated that people’s economic and political concerns should be addressed. Further, the US Embassy suggested  that the Egyptian Government needs to reach out widely to opposition to find a common ground. Reflecting the fear of backlash, it was reported this week that dozens of police officers have rallied outside the local security administration headquarters demanding to stop being used as a tool for political oppression in the country’s ongoing turmoil.

Many in Egypt are frustrated with Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Muslim Brotherhood is increasingly accused of monopolizing power. The economy has deteriorated, conservative Islamists are obstructing progress in the country, there are troubling concerns with the new constitution, and security forces continue to be heavy handed. “Of course I feel disappointed. Every day is getting worse,” said a citizen. Morsi and his supporters have dismissed the opposition’s claims that he is the same as Mubarak and accused them of trying to “topple a democratically elected president.” Bouts of protests and uprising started in December when Egyptians perceived some of Morsy’s actions, as power grabbing. Since December, Morsy’s approval ratings have continuously declined and are currently the lowest it has been since he’s been in office. 


Thanks to my wonderful GA, Jillian Underwood!

A Valentine for Eypt

Valentine's Day Gifts in Cairo Stores. Photo Credit Islam Farouk
You thrill me
I try to leave, but cannot
I push forward in the desert winds, feeling the palm air caress my face
The boats carry me away, but I return
a pull as strong as the Nile's current dragging me ever toward you
feeling your richness, feeling your depth
fearful of your embrace, but addicted to your bottomless charms
wondering how our story will end


Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday of Departure

مظاهرات «جمعة الرحيل» ببورسعيد
Protests of "Friday of Departure" in Port Said, 8 February 2013, demanding toppling of Mohamed Morsy's regime.
Egypt was rocked today by "Friday of Departure" protests.  Train lines near Tahrir were blocked as protesters asked for Morsy's departure. The protests seemed to contain significant bitterness against the Muslim Brotherhood with slogans like "Brothers cannot be trusted." Today's protest demanded the ouster of Mohammed Morsy, and the formation of a National Salvation Government.

Meanwhile, the National Salvation Front states that it is not demanding the overthrow of President Morsy. Rather, they say they support peaceful protests, and clarify that they believe Morsy is elected, but is abusing his powers.

However, not all is well with Egypt's opposition. In a thoughtful editorial, Dina el-Khawaga, a Professor at the University of Cairo argues that the NSF has focused too much on installing a new type of political regime, and not enough on consolidating a revolutionary, social policy-driven agenda. A Crying Need for a New Opposition She also points out that by focusing on an anti-Brotherhood agenda, the opposition polarizes Egyptian society even further, and worsens existing societal divisions.

She states that the opposition

needs to develop a discourse that expresses the demands of broad, disenfranchised social groups, and stresses the need to restructure the political system to serve the aspirations of citizens with regard to dignity, freedom and equity.

Well said Doktora. 

There has been a surge of violence in the recent weeks, with dozens dead from police violence. According to Reuters, the US government condemned violence against protesters, as well as the numerous acts of sexual violence against women which have taken place over the past two weeks. At least 60 persons have been killed. Although the police are part of the upsurge in violence, so are civilians.

One of the most shocking episodes has been a video of a naked middle-aged man being beaten and dragged through the streets by police to their armored vehicle. Saber has alternately blamed protesters and the police for his beating. Egypt Police Beating: The Strange Case of Hamada Saber

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Pope has expressed concerns that the new Egyptian Constitution is discriminatory, and is worried Christians will continue to be treated as an oppressed minority. The Pope called for all laws to be based on the concepts of citizenship, not religion.

In news that may make gender activists happy, early in February, the Supreme Constitutional Court  upheld the criminality of female genital mutilation, and has determined that it violates article 2 of the1971 constitution, and is also inconsistent with the principles of Sharia. 


Friday, January 25, 2013

Happy Birthday to a More Democratic, if not Revolutionary Egypt

Destroyed wall in Qasr al Aini street
Today marks the second anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution. January 25, 2011 marks the day when the Egyptian Revolution really began.  Protesters took to the streets demanding "bread, freedom, and social justice." The protests would last 18 days, ending with the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Where is the country of Egypt now? Some things in Egypt are much improved. The press is much freer. Women have used the opening up of discourse to raise some important issues that require discussion, such as the role of women in Egyptian politics, and the high rate of sexual violence against women in their country. Issues of inequality have been pushed to the fore, and there are signs of democracy. A parliament was elected, if only temporarily, and a president was also elected. These are promising improvements.

This has been a violent birthday for Egypt. There were calls for major protests in Upper Egypt, Nile Delta and the North Coast, including the governorates of Aswan, Qena, the Red Sea, Assiut, Minya, Gharbiya, Kafr al-Sheikh, Damietta, Daqahlia, Suez and Alexandria, and of course, Cairo. Protestors are chanting "Bread, Freedom, and the President lost legitimacy." Others are waving signs saying the Revolution continues. Scores are dead. 

There are tensions between the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and more liberal and revolutionary groups. Clashes have erupted today in Suez and Alexandria. The Muslim Brotherhood has not participated in protests, organizing charitable activities in major cities instead. Many protesters are chanting slogans against President Mohamed Morsy, the Department of Interior, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The National Salvation Front, led by Mohamed El Baradei, called for protests targeting the domination of Egyptian politics by the Muslim Brotherhood. Police have been firing tear gas on protesters. Hamdeen Sebahi and Khaled Ali also participated in the marches, along with other leftist leaders, and Abdel Fotouh.

Most of the media is going to focus on the challenges facing Egypt now, as well they should. I have said it before, and I will say it again, massive social change, such as the change Egypt is currently undergoing, is a time-consuming process. The French Revolution lasted at least 10 years, from 1789-to 1799. France required two more revolutions 1830 and 1848 before the modern country we now know took shape. Indeed, conservatively estimated, the American Civil Rights Movement took from 1955-1968, or thirteen years. Social upheaval is a time consuming process. A Luta Continua.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Speech about Egyptian Democratization to the Arkansas Peace and Justice Coalition, January 12, 2013

مشاهد من ميدان التحرير   Mural of Nasser, Tahrir Square, January 12, 2013

Democratization in Egypt
January 12, 2013

Thank you for inviting me here tonight. It is a real honor to have received this invitation, and be asked to speak in front of such a diverse group of progressive activists.

I am excited about the chosen topic for tonight’s talk, but I also realize its pitfalls. How do I summarize the high points of a Revolution only two years old, but one that has more excitement, plot twists, and drama than a novel by Tolstoy? I was lucky enough to live through the Egyptian Revolution, and actually arrived in Egypt to teach at the American University in Cairo on the first official day of the Revolution, January 25, 2011. I stayed in that country until December 31st, at which point I returned to the US, and began teaching at the Clinton School of Public Service.

So tonight, I am going to just briefly sketch a history of movement towards democratization in Egypt over the past two years, and what I believe are the concerns around those matters. Then, I want to invite questions from the audience to fill in the gaps people are most interested in.

Demographically, Egypt has significant economic potential. It is the most populous country in the Arab world. It has the Nile River. It has strong ties to both Africa and the Middle East and lies upon the mediterranean ocean. It has significant natural gas reserves, and massive tourist potential. It has a well developed manufacturing base, and some impressive engineering, such as the Aswan dam. It is a diverse country with approximately 90 percent of a Muslim population, ten percent Coptic Christian, and the remaining population consisting of Bahais, and traditionalists. Every shade of skin is represented in Egypt from the blue eyes and blond hair of Alexandria, to the dusky tones of the bedouin in the Sinai, and the rich dark skin of the Nubians in Upper Egypt.

So, what is the current political situation in Egypt? As you know, an enlightenment style revolution swept through Egypt two years ago.  One of the mottos of the revolution was “bread, equality and social justice.” Hosni Mubarak, a US ally, and an authoritarian, oligarchic leader was forced to leave power.

Politically, Mubarak was very beholden to the US. He was enormously corrupt. He had emerged from the military and maintained strong ties with them. Under Mubarak, business and the state became one in a manner a political scientist might characterize as nearly fascist. In an interesting twist, the military created its own business empire under his rule. Under Mubarak, the poor became desperately poor. Illiteracy increased to nearly 70 percent, and corruption was rife. Inequality increased rapidly, and as the Revolution indicated, Mubarak and his cronies stole a significant amount of the nation’s wealth under his rule.

After Mubarak left, the country was ruled for an extended period by the military, known as the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, or SCAF.  Essentially, the country remained authoritarian in this period, but the military was the leader, not Mubarak. Many viewed this as the death of one head of a two-headed hydra, where the beast remained alive.  One head had been cut off yet the other head remained.

The conservative right and liberal left categories which categorize Europe and perhaps the US simply do not fit well in Egypt. Rather, parties can more easily be divided along a crucial axis: support for a secular state, or support for a religious (Islamic) state. Another axis might be support for human rights, democratic mechanisms, social justice and the poor, or conversely support for large business, the military and an authoritarian state. So to give an example, Mubarak was secular, but pro-business and autocratic. The Muslim Brotherhood supports poverty relief, but also leans towards an Islamist state. The Nour party (Salafis) support a strong Islamist state and have no well thought out views on most of the other issues. The opposition led in part by Mohammed El Baradei, supports a secular state, the rights of women and minorities, poverty reduction, and more democratic approaches.  

As a point of clarification, being Muslim does not make one an Islamist, or a radical or al qaeda. There are many practicing Muslims who prefer a secular state. The threat, in my view, comes from the Salafis, or fundamentalists, who wish to impose a Wahabi, Saudi style, stripped down, and very strict version of Islam on Egypt. These are the people who are destroying Sufi relics in Mali, and who terrorize Afghanistan as the Taliban. Like Christianity, Islam has many voices, from the most conservative, (Wahabi) to the most liberal, perhaps the Sufi, and a whole spectrum in between.

A burst of optimism among the liberal secularists occurred as the nation prepared for the first ever truly free parliamentary elections in the Winter and Spring of 2012. However, after the dust had settled, the first post-revolutionary Egyptian parliament had few women, and many Islamists, some of them extreme. One good outcome of the parliamentary election was that the liberals and secularists did better than expected, capturing about 15 percent of the seats in the lower house. Given the fact that the majority of liberal parties were formed after the Revolution, I believe that was a strong showing.

Late in the spring, however,  the sunshine of democracy dimmed as the judiciary dismissed the lower house of parliament on technical grounds.

In June 2012, I returned to Egypt to the American University in Cairo to work on my research. In mid June, an election took place between Ahmed Shafiq, former prime minister under Mubarak and a military man, and Mohammed Morsy, a well educated engineer, and prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Tensions ran very high, and matters were tense. It appeared to be a Hobson’s Choice: on the one hand, Shafiq was resolutely secular, but nonetheless had strong ties to the deposed regime. On the other hand Mohammed Morsy was a revolutionary of sorts, but he was also clearly an Islamist. It was really a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. As we know now, it was a tightly contested election, but Morsy seems to have fairly won Egypt’s presidency.

This ushered in another strange interregnum with both democratic and authoritarian elements. An Islamist was President, the judiciary had been appointed by the old regime, and the freely elected parliament had been dismissed. After only a few months in power, Morsy stunned the world by trying to implement a power grab in late November 2012, sparking outrage and massive protests across Egypt.

Egypt’s New Constitution was approved by referendum in December, and was signed into law by President Mohamed Morsy on December 26, 2012. Human Rights Watch states that the draft constitution provides for basic protections against arbitrary dentention and torture and for some economic rights. However, it fails to end military trials of civilians or protect freedom of expression and religion. One positive development is that the final draft does not require strict adherence to sharia with regard to women's rights (former article 68 has been removed). However, sex or gender is not a grounds for prohibiting discrimination in the approved version, and potentially interferes with women's choices about work and family.

Also, in the period between Christmas and New Years, more developments occurred. In accordance with the recently passed Constitution, eight judges have been dismissed from the Supreme Constitutional Court, one of whom was the first Egyptian woman to hold a post in the judiciary. Activists believe this dismissal violates the separation of powers, and shows that the judiciary is increasingly under attack.

The dispute about the Constitution, which was largely viewed as drafted by Islamists, has had a positive side effect of bringing the opposition together. The new opposition coalition is called the National Salvation Front. This group includes Mohamed El Baradei, the Social Democratic Party (a European style left democratic group), The Free Egyptians (A free market group which has secular and coptic membership) and a variety of socialist, communist, and secular groups.

All legislative power now rests with the upper house, the Shura. A draft law on elections has been proposed by the Egyptian Shura council.  This law is being put in place to plan for a new round of parliamentary elections scheduled for April.  The National Council of Women, however,has  said the draft does not allow proper representation of women in Parliament, nor does it represent the capabilities, potential and ambitions of women after the January 25th revolution.

So, in summary, there is good news and bad news about democratization in Egypt.  Egypt has made remarkable, and bold strides. It is impressive that elections were held. They were not completely free and fair, but neither were they totally rigged. The fact that the Islamists won is encouraging in the sense that the electorate did elect a completely different group into power than held power during the Mubarak government. The bad news is that the Islamists are not progressive, nor particularly interested in democratic institutions, and they seem to be consolidating their grip on power.

As we have seen, two years into the Revolution, there is still a lot of work to still be done. That is, in and of itself, not a bad thing. Please remember that the French Revolution took nearly twenty years to complete. Many countries that have gone through democratic transitions recently, including Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa, often experienced long periods of partial transition. Thus, it would be realistic to assume that Egypt has a good ten to twenty years ahead of it before the democratic transition is complete.

What can American activists do to support democracy in Egypt? We can send support and training to the emerging progressive parties, such as the National Salvation Front, and urge the American government to do the same. We can also educate our fellow Americans that there are different kinds of Islam, most of which are moderate, and not affilated with al qaeda. We can also encourage support for the rule of law, and democratic processes. The best idea is to support Egyptian based NGOs doing work in these areas.