It has been three years since the removal of Mubarak from the presidency yet the situation on the ground in Egypt appears remarkably the same. One of the goals of the revolution was to end the autocratic tendencies of the presidency and usher in a new period of political and economic freedom. Disillusioned with the perceived autocratic tendencies of Dr. Morsi, some of the revolutionaries went to the streets for a second time and with the aid of the Egyptian army successfully removed him. Almost immediately after removing Dr. Morsi, the new interim government began wiping out any resistance to their rule. This began with closing any channels with opposing views and morphed into establishing laws that limit the freedom of the press, vague definitions of terrorism and the banning of unsanctioned protests. Indeed, it has gotten so bad that Ahmed Maher one of the leaders of the April 6 youth movement (one of the main organizations behind the January 2011 protests that toppled Mubarak) got three years in jail just for protesting without a permit. To understand how draconian this rule is, it is important to compare it with Mubarak, who also got three years in jail. However, Mubarak offense was embezzlement of $17 million dollars of state funds.
What went wrong? Why did the first democratic experiment fail so badly that people are rooting for an autocratic leader fully aware that El-Sissi will not fulfill the two of the primary goals (freedom and liberty) of the revolution? To understand this it is important that the revolutionaries realize that the problem is with the system and not with the man on top. Each of the constitutions that were passed recently just rehashed the same system with empty promises of freedom, sharia, and slight modifications to the breakdown of power among the president, parliament and the judiciary. In Egypt, people can vote only for the president and their parliament or local council representatives. Every other important position in the country gets selected. The president either directly or indirectly selects his prime minister, his cabinet, the governors, the mayors, the interior ministry, the local sheriffs and judges. With so much power in the hands of such few people, how can you not expect the system to become autocratic. More importantly such a system breeds corruption. When a local policeman tortures his prisoners, the only recourse people have to address this is the interior minister, who might not be reachable to common folk. In the same way with the local police only having to answer to the interior minister, they have no incentive to respond to the needs and demands of the local people. In other words, no matter which president comes to power, they will be either deemed autocratic or will be autocratic. Moreover, the system works best only with a strongly autocratic leader.
But this is no excuse or time for revolutionaries to give up now. First, it must be recognized that they have already accomplished one major goal and that is they showed the government that citizens have power and their voices matter. Today the revolutionaries must change tactics to remain a positive force in Egyptian society. They must realize that the solution to truly change the country is by decentralizing political power through decoupling sheriffs, judges, mayors and governors from the president. Instead of protesting against one autocratic president followed by another they need to protest against the unlimited powers of the presidents. They should protest to allow the Egyptian people directly elect their mayors, governors, local sheriffs and local judges. Giving local Egyptians control over their cities and governorates will hopefully bring several positive developments to Egypt. Firstly, it will allow positive political discourse in Egypt and allow a diversity of political opinion to flourish. Some governorates might become Islamist strongholds, other liberal/secular strongholds. This diversity will give Egyptian people the ability to experience what different political ideas such as conservatism, liberalism and socialism actually mean when it comes to governance without creating havoc on the national level. In addition, it allows for political discourse on tangible ideas rather than abstract concepts. It is much easier to make and track a promise to improve the economic conditions of Cairo by reducing traffic gridlock rather than lofty ideals of improving the economy.
Secondly, while local government will not be able to stamp out corruption they will do a better job at controlling it. A sheriff directly responsible to the local people will less likely to allow torture to occur in his police stations. A judge knowing that he will be up for elections will less likely make court decisions based on whim rather than rule of law. Lastly, it will give our youth practical experience in campaigning, politics, holding office and most importantly teach our political leaders the importance of positive political discourse and the importance of compromise to reach the greater good of improving the lives of every Egyptian.
I wish the best to all the revolutionaries out there and remind them that this is only the beginning of the Arab spring and only by working together regardless of political camps/ideals can they change Egypt for the better. I am looking forward to the day when start hearing chants of “We want to elect our governors” in Egyptian streets.
I finally finished and deposited my thesis :), back to writing blogs…
I had a dream today morning that I was in Cairo, Egypt. More specifically I was near the Presidential Palace and the recently formed barricades. I was with a motley group of Muslims; Men and women; very religious men with nice looking beards on one side, to women who did not wear hijab. We were all wearing white or light colored cloth.
On our left were the so called “secular” protestors who were marching to the palace. On our right were the so called “Islamists” who were marching to protect the palace. We immediately stood in the middle and formed a barricade wall between both groups. We were not many and the line was only one person deep. Nevertheless, we formed the line between these two groups. As the two groups descended upon us we shouted
“We are all Muslims”; “Hit us and leave the other side alone”, and other chants along those lines.
We did get beaten by some perverted men on both sides. However, we kept the line rigid and refused to allow the two sides to mix and fight each other. In the end both sides withdrew and left us in the center of the square all alone.
The dream ends with us setting up camp and discussing what we found in the square, including the palace key, which we believed the protesters had with them to storm the palace. This reminded us about the time of Uthman, where his house was surrounded by a hostile group that eventually entered and killed him. We remembered all the strife that happened and how the Islamic nation had its first civil war due to this event. We decided that we will never let that happen.
This dream left me with more questions than answers:
Where is the third camp of Egyptians? Who will stand up to the excesses of both sides ? Who will rise up to protect each side from each other and help change the atmosphere in Egypt from one of strife to one of dialogue?
We have reached a dangerous place were both sides consider each other as evil and must be dealt with. How do we expect them to have dialogue with each other?
The reason I used the word so-called secularist and islamists earlier, is because for the most part they are all Muslims and they all care about Egypt.
I am not Egyptian or in Egypt and I cannot do anything to affect change. However, I hope by writing about this, maybe I can raise awareness of those who do and can have an impact directly in Egypt.
I love this picture. I found it in Al-Jazeera English and they own this picture
To me this picture represents humanity, who by working and supporting each other can accomplish impossible deeds. This fact that this was taken while all were praying is extremely symbolic to me as it signifies that Islam can and should act as a unifying element amongst people and should never be accepted as a tool for division. Finally seeing the Egyptian flag in the middle, represents gives me hope that the focus is upon improving the nation as a whole, by the people for the people, and not just helping a few. In the quote area, I placed a quote that describes my fears and hopes for Egypt very well.
Many are wondering, why did Salah not publish last week? Didn’t he say he will publish last week, what happened? Did he fall into a well?
No, I did not fall into a well. What happened was pure and simple; I experienced a terrible case of writers block. Usually I write my posts based on what is currently running in my head. It could be food thoughts or thoughts for food, it call be about the most mundane or life shattering (to me at least) concept. At the end of the day, I usually publish whatever is on my mind that instance regardless of what I was thinking or planning to write yesterday. Last week was an exception. A dear friend of mine told me you better write about Egypt and I mistakenly said okay I will. Immediately the writer’s block kicked in. Should I write about how I feel about the protests or the government, should I write about my fears or dreams, should I write about what going on in the news or how the news is being analyzed. You see the hint, I basically got paralyzed with all these half developed ideas and I ended up not being to be able to write anything!!!
So I made a promise to myself never to promise to write any article. What comes, comes I guess.
With regards to Egypt, I am so proud of the protestors. Living in the western world one has no idea how much each of these protestors had to sacrifice to come and protest. My God bless them and increase their patience and resolve. At the same time there is a deep sense of fear in me that the protest will fail to change the situation in Egypt. While I am confident that Mubarak will leave, I am afraid that they are currently trying to build a system to get Suleiman or other USA/Israel approved candidate to fill this top job. Seeing the USA meddle in Egypt is making me even more suspicious. I honestly do not trust the words of the US government because I know the only thing they care about is a stable country that can protect their interests and Israel interests as well. They do not care about democracies or want the people want (unless it also happens to be what they want)
In conclusion I am extremely hopeful, yet fearful for Egypt sake. On that note, I want to make a special request for all my friends on this blog. I know most of you are not capable of participating directly in supporting the Egyptian people and even more do not believe in the purpose or concept of demonstrations; or are just too lazy. However, I must ask that each one of you to take time of your day and pray for the people of Egypt. Pray that God raises the cloak of tyranny off the backs of the Egyptians and that he gives them their freedom and prosperity that every nation in this earth deserves. Pray that God will make the next few weeks and month an easy transition for the people of Egypt and well worth it. Pray that this sense of revolution and demand for freedom strikes the hearts of every Egyptian soul and that they are all given the strength to get out and demonstrate for their God given rights. Pray that the future new governments of Egypt will not be another tyranny and pray that the USA and other countries will try not to wipe out this new government due to different foreign and domestic policy.