• Egypt’s Dystopia Is a Lesson for the World

    Protesters fill Cairo’s Tahrir Square in February 2011. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

    “The narrative that what happened in Egypt was a total failure, that things just returned back to exactly where they started, is pushed by those who are unable to understand or accept the challenge posed by those 18 days,” says Professor Khaled Fahmy, an Egyptian historian now based at the University of Cambridge, referring to the period of revolutionary protest in Tahrir that brought Mubarak’s reign to a close. “It was an effort to imagine an alternative form of society, one that had implications not just for Egypt, but for societies everywhere. It tried to make a space where those conversations could happen, and in that it succeeded. It was possible. And precisely because it was possible, it was dangerous.”

    Tahrir Square, the beating heart of the revolution, pictured in November last year. Photo: Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

    A decade later, with a brief flurry of pro-revolution platitudes now long forgotten – “We should teach the Egyptian revolution in our schools,” remarked then-prime minister David Cameron in February of 2011, shortly before he made an “inspiring” visit to Tahrir Square as part of an arms-sales tour across the region – western leaders have reprised their role as staunch defenders of Egypt’s dictatorship, whose interests are increasingly entwined with their own.

    Sisi, Egypt’s current president and the man who oversaw the massacre of nearly 1,000 protesters during a single day in 2013 (shortly after he deposed Mohamed Morsi, who later died in jail), is a regular presence on the red carpet in European capitals. Considered a bulwark against both violent extremism and mass migration from the region, despite there being scant evidence of his effectiveness on either front, Sisi’s security forces are equipped with French fighter jets, Italian frigates, German submarines and British assault rifles,. Last month, President Emmanuel Macron awarded him France’s highest order of merit, the Légion d’honneur.

    “That year came with so much – so much promise, and so much trauma.”

    But for Sisi, even more vital than cutting-edge weaponry and prestigious photo-calls is the growing entrenchment of his regime in a globalised financial system, which helps ensure that his own stability – and, consequently, the suppression of any future revolutionary challenge – is aligned with the economic concerns of western states and some of the world’s biggest multinational forces. A huge surge in both international loans (Egypt’s external debt has doubled as a proportion of GDP since Sisi assumed power) and foreign direct investment, particularly in the oil and gas sector (BP, Britain’s biggest company, pours more money into Egypt than any other country), has helped drive rising inequality, as ordinary Egyptian taxpayers shoulder a disproportionate strain when it comes to paying back the interest-heavy loans and the related government cuts to social spending. Ten million Egyptians have been newly dragged down into poverty over the past half-decade; meanwhile, the number of “ultra high net worth individuals” in Cairo is rising faster than anywhere else on the planet.

    “The Egyptian government’s fiscal and economic policies are accelerating the transfer of wealth from lower and middle classes to itself and business elites, with likely devastating consequences,” warned Maged Mandour, an analyst for the Carnegie Endowment, in a report last year entitled “Sisi’s war on the poor”. He went on to note that higher levels of deprivation could be detected most clearly in areas like healthcare – where spending as a proportion of GDP has plummeted, leaving less money for doctors, nurses, hospital beds, COVID tests and oxygen tanks. None of this appears to trouble Egypt’s enthusiastic foreign backers; business media giant Bloomberg recently lauded the country as an “emerging market darling”.

    “At best,” says Fahmy, the historian, “we — the Egyptian people — are a nuisance to the regime. At worst, we are a danger. In either case, we are a burden.

    #égypte #révolution #révolutions-arabes #covid-19 #25janvier #sisi #morsi #mubarak #macron

  • The U.S. is wrong about the Muslim Brotherhood — and the Arab world is suffering for it

    Texte intégral de l’article:
    By Jamal Khashoggi

    August 28, 2018
    During the Obama presidency, the U.S. administration was wary of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had come to power in Egypt after the country’s first-ever free elections. Despite his declared support for democracy and change in the Arab world in the wake of the Arab Spring, then-President Barack Obama did not take a strong position and reject the coup against President-elect Mohamed Morsi. The coup, as we know, led to the military’s return to power in the largest Arab country — along with tyranny, repression, corruption and mismanagement.
    That is the conclusion that David D. Kirkpatrick arrives at in his excellent book “Into the Hands of the Soldiers,” which was released this month. A former Cairo bureau chief for the New York Times, Kirkpatrick gives a sad account of Egypt’s 2013 coup that led to the loss of a great opportunity to reform the entire Arab world and allow a historic change that might have freed the region from a thousand years of tyranny.
    The United States’s aversion to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is more apparent in the current Trump administration, is the root of a predicament across the entire Arab world. The eradication of the Muslim Brotherhood is nothing less than an abolition of democracy and a guarantee that Arabs will continue living under authoritarian and corrupt regimes. In turn, this will mean the continuation of the causes behind revolution, extremism and refugees — all of which have affected the security of Europe and the rest of the world. Terrorism and the refugee crisis have changed the political mood in the West and brought the extreme right to prominence there.
    There can be no political reform and democracy in any Arab country without accepting that political Islam is a part of it. A significant number of citizens in any given Arab country will give their vote to Islamic political parties if some form of democracy is allowed. It seems clear then that the only way to prevent political Islam from playing a role in Arab politics is to abolish democracy, which essentially deprives citizens of their basic right to choose their political representatives.
    Shafeeq Ghabra, a professor of political science at Kuwait University, explains the problem in this way: “The Arab regimes’ war on the Brotherhood does not target the movement alone, but rather targets those who practice politics, who demand freedom and accountability, and all who have a popular base in society.” A quick look at the political degradation that has taken place in Egypt since the military’s return to power confirms what Ghabra says. President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s regime has cracked down on the Islamists and arrested some 60,000 of them. Now it has extended its heavy hand against both secular and military figures, even those who supported him in the coup. In today’s Egypt, political life is totally dead.
    It is wrong to dwell on political Islam, conservatism and identity issues when the choice is between having a free society tolerant of all viewpoints and having an oppressive regime. Five years of Sissi’s rule in Egypt makes this point clear.
    There are efforts here in Washington, encouraged by some Arab states that do not support freedom and democracy, to persuade Congress to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. If they succeed, the designation will weaken the fragile steps toward democracy and political reform that have already been curbed in the Arab world. It will also push backward the Arab countries that have made progress in creating a tolerant environment and allowing political participation by various components of society, including the Islamists.
    Islamists today participate in the parliaments of various Arab countries such as Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, Tunisia and Morocco. This has led to the emergence of Islamic democracy, such as the Ennahda movement in Tunisia, and the maturing of democratic transformation in the other countries.
    The coup in Egypt led to the loss of a precious opportunity for Egypt and the entire Arab world. If the democratic process had continued there, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political practices could have matured and become more inclusive, and the unimaginable peaceful rotation of power could have become a reality and a precedent to be followed.
    The Trump administration always says it wants to correct Obama’s mistakes. It should add his mishandling of Arab democracy to its list. Obama erred when he wasted the precious opportunity that could have changed the history of the Arab world, and when he caved to pressure from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as from members of his own administration. They all missed the big picture and were governed by their intolerant hatred for any form of political Islam, a hatred that has destroyed Arabs’ choice for democracy and good governance.

    #démocratie #Islam #pays-arabes #Egypte #Sissi #Morsi #Révolutions-arabes #Trump #Etats-Unis #coup-d'état

  • The U.S. is wrong about the Muslim Brotherhood — and the Arab world is suffering for it


    L’aversion des États-Unis pour les Frères musulmans, qui est plus manifeste dans l’administration Trump actuelle, est à la source d’une situation difficile dans l’ensemble du monde arabe. L’éradication des Frères musulmans n’est rien de moins qu’une abolition de la démocratie et une garantie que les Arabes continueront de vivre sous des régimes autoritaires et corrompus. À son tour, cela signifiera la poursuite des causes de la révolution, de l’extrémisme et des réfugiés, qui ont tous affecté la sécurité de l’Europe et du reste du monde.

    ... Il ne peut y avoir de réforme politique et de démocratie dans aucun pays arabe sans accepter le fait que l’islam politique en fait partie. Un nombre important de citoyens dans un pays arabe donné donneront leur vote aux partis politiques islamiques si une certaine forme de démocratie est autorisée. Il semble donc clair que le seul moyen d’empêcher l’islam politique de jouer un rôle dans la politique arabe est d’abolir la démocratie, ce qui prive essentiellement les citoyens du droit fondamental de choisir leurs représentants politiques.

    #démocratie #Islam #pays-arabes #Egypte #Sissi #Morsi #Révolutions-arabes #Trump #Etats-Unis #coup-d'état