An Eventful Weekend In Egypt

For those of you keeping up with the politics in Egypt, you know that this past weekend was an eventful weekend. There were a series of Muslim Brotherhood protests on Friday and on Saturday, the final verdict for former Pres. Hosni Mubarak was announced.

It was a known fact that Islamist including the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis were going to protest throughout the country against the military government in power on Friday. I was told by family, friends, AUC, and the US State Department to stay at home as much as I could for the weekend. There was a notion of ambiguity whenever the topic came up. There were so many rumors that were circulating. Some of the alluded to fires being set and violence to break out. The reality was that no one knew exactly what would happen or how bad it could get. But the government was ready for anything. The military was given permission to shoot openly if they saw it necessary.

Here is a small background on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood has been deemed a terrorist group by the Egyptian government and has been forbidden. The group has a very radical interpretation of Islam that the majority of Muslims do not agree with. After the revolution in 2011 and the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt had its first “fair” and “democratic” elections that it had had in decades. (I put fair and democratic in quotations because on the contrary to what the Egyptian government and other nations, such as the US, had advocated, the elections were most definitely not fair. There was and still is much corruption in the system and the election was rigged.) As the result of the 2012 elections, a Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamad Morsi, was elected as president of Egypt. Morsi pursued an Islamist agenda and the Egyptian people were outraged and once again rose in protests and ousted the president for a second time. Today, anyone who claims to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood is to be arrested. Of course, people do not openly claim that they are supporters, but there are still within the country.

So what actually happened this weekend?

The Islamists throughout Egypt demonstrated in different parts of the country including Cairo and Alexandria. It was the first time a big demonstration has occurred since the revolution in 2013. The Salafis called for a “Muslim Youth Uprising” on their facebook page. (We find that the use of social media is a reoccurring theme that we have seen in the two past revolutions in Egypt as well as in the rest of the Arab Spring.) Many social gatherings were canceled such as sports practices and meetings. Many churches also canceled their services for the whole weekend. Starting on Thursday night, security forces were deployed into Cairo and other cities around the country. As the Islamist stormed the streets in Tahrir, Alexandria, and other cities, the government was ready. The supporters marched through the streets carrying the Quran protesting against the current president and government of Egypt. Some violence broke out and it was reported that more than 100 people were arrested and 3 military officers were killed. In North Sinai, 6 army officers were injured. About 6 bombs were defused and 1 bomb went off near Tahrir Square, but there were no casualties because of it. Fortunately, this did not amount into a huge protest like that ones of the past and like the rumors that circulated had alluded to. But many officers and professionals believe that this will not be the last time that the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, and other Islamist will rise in violence against the government. In fact, the English class that I teach tomorrow night has been canceled by the organization I am working with because there are rumors that there will be another set of protests tomorrow. Only time will tell what will come next.

Please refer to the links below to the news stories that I got a lot of my information concerning the protests:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/11/egypt-tightens-security-salafist-protests-2014112861348838826.html

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/28/world/meast/egypt-violence/index.html?iref=allsearch

The second event that took place in Egypt this past weekend was the final verdict of the murder charges against former President Hosni Mubarak. During the 2011 revolution against Mubarak, over 800 protesters were killed. Unfortunately, only documentation for a little over 200 of them was available and taken into consideration in the court. Mubarak, the minister of interior at the time, and six other aids were linked to the killings and were put on trial for these charges and others. On Saturday, the judge dismissed the case and the charges against the people involved on a technicality. Mubarak is not completely off the hook though; in May, he can found guilty of embezzlement and was sentenced to three years in prison. Due to some heath issues, he will be on house arrest till the end of the sentence. It has been said that the case will be appealed, but we will see if any other evidence can be brought forth.

So now that the biggest case against Mubarak has been “resolved” how are the people reacting? There are mixed reactions. If you watch the videos from the news reports, you will see that that people in the court room were extremely happy about the court’s decision, but you will also see the upset that the swept across the nation and the people. People assembled in Tahrir again on Saturday, but this time because of their dismay with the results.

There is this big question that is being discussed about the effectiveness of the revolution, especially after the court’s decision on Saturday. Many people feel that the current regime has not changed much since Mubarak and is only an extension of his own regime. We discussed this in my Egyptian Foreign Policy class today. My professor brought up an interesting note. The policies of Mubarak were not all bad. He had some good policies. The current regime under Al- Sisi has not yet fully developed and there is much ambiguity as to which way he will lead the country, but you cannot deny that were are many similarities between the two. They are both associated with a military rule and many of Al-Sisi’s policies have not changed. In fact, my professor mentioned that some of the policies are even a bit harsher than Mubarak’s. A girl in class brought up a conversation she had with a representative from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabian compared Egypt to his own country saying that there is no freedom of speech in Egypt. He implied that while in recent years the people have voiced their opinions and concerns, but freedom of speech is only been fabricated. In his opinion, it is evident, especially after Mubarak’s trial, that the Egyptians’ opinions have not and will not be taken into consideration.

My professor brought up another really good point to consider in all of this. He said that for the last 5,000 years, Egypt has been governed by a central government. The state itself and the institutions of the state have always prevailed. He said that while the regime may collapse, the state does not. The state continues to move forward and the system does not change; the leadership changes. Basically, he was saying that the state and its institutions are strong and will overcome those who misuse it. The people just need to recognize this and have faith in the state that has been there for the last so long.

So there are some big questions that will be answered over time. The reality is that it is too early to be writing the history and the effects of Mubarak. And it is definitely too early to judge the revolutions and Al-Sisi. This is another waiting game. Only with time will we be able to analyze what actually happened. Only with time will we be able to judge the effects of Mubarak, revolutions, Morsi, and Al-Sisi.

Please refer to the links below that I consulted while writing the section on Hosni Mubarak:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/11/egypt-judge-dismisses-charges-against-mubarak-20141129853635899.html

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/12/01/world/meast/egypt-mubarak-trial/index.html?iref=allsearch

This is just a little update on the politics going on inside Egypt. I would highly recommend that you do some reading for yourselves and make your own predictions. It is really interesting and definitely worth your time.

Thanks for reading! Come back next week to read about some more about this amazing country! I only have about a month left here, so don’t miss out on what’s coming

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