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Home > English > NEWS AND ANALYSIS > Egypt’s New Lesson: Would You Listen?

Egypt’s New Lesson: Would You Listen?

Thursday 11 July 2013, by Abdallah Hendawy

Throughout the last couple of days I have been hearing and reading several criticisms from the Western media and foreign governments as well as my Western friends blaming us for what they assume has happened in Egypt. The assumption is that there has been a military coup against the elected President. This is being falsely judged as a setback to democracy in Egypt. This has triggered me to write down a short explanation to what we have in Egypt at this moment and why we in Egypt understand that this is not a coup but a correction to the democratic path towards a Free Egypt.

Egyptians decided on June 30 to march in Cairo, Mansora, the port city of Alexandria, the Nile Delta city of Damanhour and elsewhere in Egypt. People took to the streets in order to correct the compass of the January 25 revolution; a genuine popular revolution that Egyptians began in 2011. The hallmark of this revolution was a rejection of all types of autocracy and fascism, whether religious or military. The principal aim of that revolution was to craft a democracy on the soil of this nation. No one on earth could have stopped the masses from achieving their aspirations. Even Mubarak’s brutal police collapsed within a few hours of the popular movement across Egypt. Some may have thought that Mubarak’s resignation was the end of the story; it wasn’t, it was just the end of round one of the anticipated road to freedom.

In the aftermath of Mubarak’s fall, Egyptians have once more marched across Egypt demanding the downfall of the interim military junta who became the de facto governors of the country after Mubarak stepped down (February 2011 through June 2012). Egyptians demanded an end to the military general’s role in the transition after the military junta were involved in several crimes during the transition period. The million-people marches in the streets had once more imposed popular demands and asserted the will of the Egyptians to be a free nation. The junta finally agreed, under the pressure of the mass protests, to end the transition period by announcing a date of the first presidential elections.

On June 30 2012, Egypt had its first democratically elected president in office. The Muslim Brotherhood chose Dr.Mohamed Morsi as its candidate. I was among thousands of liberal and secular people who trusted President Morsi over his rival Captain Shaifk, Mubarak’s last Prime Minister. However, quickly after Morsi’s first few weeks in office, he reneged on every promise he made to the people. Morsi clearly overstepped his constitutional duty by issuing the November Constitutional Declaration making all his decrees immune from the judiciary, illegally appointing Egypt Prosecutor-General (according to the constitution appointing a PG is the task of the Supreme Judiciary Council to ensure separation of powers). Morsi did not just abuse his powers he also managed to create an unprecedented state of polarization in Egypt. Splitting the country into two teams; Pro-Islam and Anti-Islam, which was never the case before in this country. In other words, you are either a Pro-Morsi and a good Muslim or anti-Morsi who is simply an infidel and a Zionist spy aiming at destroying the country. This was not a country with an opposition and a government; this was a fascist ruling elite leading the country to drift. One may smartly ask, “Wasn’t he a democratically elected President through a free and fair election?” Democracy is not just about counting ballots. This is especially true in the aftermath of a revolution. Democracy, in these sensitive times, is about the ability to govern a country, ensuring equal participation, respecting human rights, recognizing minority rights, being able to unify a nation and move forward with it towards prosperity. The election is just a representation of what the nation thinks is correct on a certain day at a certain moment. It does not mean what the nation has decided to be eternally! Elections are one aspect of several that a government should undertake when considering being free. Morsi was elected on June 30, 2012 and stayed in office for one year. This year unfortunately resulted in a constitution that doesn’t respect basic human rights, imposes religious foundations, places checks on freedoms of the media and press, allows military trials of civilians, limits freedom of thought and restricts religious freedoms. In this single year of President Morsi’s rule the result was a government that did not respect or abide by the rule of law. President Morsi has ordered the release of prisoners who were involved in terrorist attacks during the 80s and 90s and gave them the space to spread hate speech, incite violence, and threaten non-Muslims in Egypt. Can we then convince people that they should stay silent within all these violations because Morsi was democratically elected? Egyptians repeatedly showed dissatisfaction and frustration and gave Morsi one year to at least take steps toward reforms, but there was no positive response from him. Mr. Morsi’s plan with his Muslim Brotherhood Group was to found a religion-based categorization of the society to lead the country to founding a religious dictatorship, which would send a culturally rich country backward in cultural and political time.

From April through June 2013, 22 million Egyptians signed the Tamarod Petition (A group of young activists organized a campaign named Tamarod /Rebel) that invited people to withdraw confidence in Morsi, encouraging them to protest on June 30 and announce civil disobedience until Morsi steps down. On June 30 2013, exactly a year after Morsi was in office, Egyptians marched in the streets, expressing their frustration at this dull man who continued to disappoint their aspirations of freedom and a progressive state based on citizenship and respect for human rights. Millions of people (reports estimated 30 million) have once again taken the streets across Egypt having one single demand: Morsi, step down. It was not a demand of a bunch of liberals or the elite intellectuals (well, we don’t have 30 million intellectuals anyway); the incessant fatal economic failures of Morsi’s government have attracted the poor of Egypt to join the protest. Police personnel too, who suffered a lot of injustices from Morsi’s governments, have also lined up with the people in their demands, the judges did not hesitate to join the mass protest after witnessing the legal violations committed by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood regime. The same applies to labor unions, farmer’s syndicates and others. Last but not least to join the protest was the Egyptian Armed Forces personnel who, again, were the only properly functioning institution in Egypt. It is important to note that the Egyptian military was clearly the last to join the protest, regardless of its own interests and gains that made them join the protest. The military joined the protest after the millions had already taken to the streets for 3 days (June 30 through July 3).

People would ask me: “wasn’t what happened on the Juune 30 a military coup against a democratically elected president?”. According to several scholars, a military a coup is defined as a sudden deposition of a government, usually by an elite group of the existing state organization – typically the military – that assumes power right after overthrowing the existing government. If you have been following what has been happening in Egypt you would clearly learn that, in no way, was this a sudden move. Egyptians have shown anger and frustration and took the streets several times since November 2012 following Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration. Furthermore, the military did not assume power after June 30; in fact, the current interim President is the Justice Chief of Egypt who is a civilian personality with no military background. The role of the military in Egypt was limited to supporting the will of the millions of Egyptians taking to the streets. There is as well, another interesting fact, the idea that was presented by Ozan Varol, “Lately a view that all coups are a danger to democracy and stability has been challenged by the indication of the phenomenon of a "democratic coup d’état", which "responds to a popular uprising against an authoritarian or totalitarian regime and topples that regime for the limited purpose of holding the free and fair elections of civilian leaders (Ozan O. Varol, 2012). Let me also assure that Egyptians are well aware of the fact that a military intervention into politics may ruin the whole democratic process, but given the current circumstances, as well as the potential deterioration of the freedoms and liberty status in Egypt, this scenario is the least painful option.

To sum it up and to give an ending remark, let me state bluntly that people in Egypt do not think June 30 was a military coup, they are confident it was a correction to the path of the revolution. In no way would Egyptians have allowed a new dictatorship to take place on their soil, even if it was a democratically elected dictatorship. Every nation has a fundamental right to experience and build its own democracy, whether we are taking the wrong or the correct direction; this is in the end our experience, our gains and our responsibility. We are the ones to suffer or gain at the end of the day. Even if some readers are still convinced that June 30 was a military coup, believe me, no one in Egypt really cares about what those in the West say about this. In fact, people here are not interested in listening to a Western voice scolding them.

As an Egyptian, I can be proud to say that our people have brought down two dictators in two years. The lesson that Egyptians are telling the world today is: “we will not submit to any fascist regime, no matter what!” This is a story of a nation that will teach the world a new lesson. Are you willing to listen to us?

Abdallah Hendaway is an Egyptian Activist. Follow him on Twitter here