Egypt’s revolutionaries fear return to dark age of repression

Critics say Egypt is more insecure and repressed than it was under Mubarak

Egyptians celebrate on Tahrir Square in Cairo after the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Those behind that revolution, however, say its goals have never been fulfilled. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Egyptians celebrate on Tahrir Square in Cairo after the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Those behind that revolution, however, say its goals have never been fulfilled. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters


Mass trials of Muslim Brotherhood figures and supporters, detentions of secular figures and legal proceedings against Al- Jazeera journalists are seen by Egypt’s revolutionaries as proof that the country is reverting to a new dark age of authoritarian rule where all dissent is suppressed.

Those behind the revolution that resulted in the toppling of president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 say counter- revolutionaries have controlled country since then.

They say the goals of the 18-day mass uprising against Mubarak – bread, freedom, justice, and accountability – have not been addressed, and Egypt is more insecure, repressed and economically challenged than ever before.

Mubarak was succeeded by a status quo-minded military that gave priority to protecting its vast economic empire and had no intention of instituting reforms revolutionaries demanded. When they protested, the unreformed security forces cracked down: some 200 were reported killed and hundreds arrested during 17 months of military rule.

The Brotherhood initially partnered the military but, as Egypt’s best-organised political movement, secured control of parliament and the presidency through elections. When the Brotherhood packed the civil service and public bodies with loyalists and did not deliver on pledges, protests resumed.

The Brotherhood unleashed thugs on rallies, prosecuted journalists and anyone criticising officials, and authorised detention for 30 days without judicial review.

The June 30th, 2013, protests by millions of Egyptians that prompted the military to remove president Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood stalwart, on July 3rd, were meant to return the country to the revolutionary road but it did the opposite.

The Brotherhood refused to accept his ousting and mounted protest sit-ins in Cairo. Since their violent dispersal last August, at the cost of 964 lives, the Brotherhood has staged daily demonstrations that often culminate in clashes, while supporters have attacked police stations and public facilities and jihadis have stepped up attacks. Hundreds have died and thousands have been jailed.

On November 24th, 2013, in a bid to curb the insurrection, a new law banning unauthorised protests was enacted. Under this law, football “Ultras”; journalists; Brotherhood members and supporters; and leaders of the 2011 uprising have been detained and sentenced to prison.

Ahmad Maher, co-founder of the April 6th youth movement, vanguard of the uprising, has been sentenced to two years for protesting, and another prominent revolutionary, Alaa Abdel Fattah, is under trial for organising an unlicensed protest against military trials of civilians.

His aunt, Egyptian author and activist Ahdaf Soueif, said that situation had not come full circle but had spiralled “so the repression . . . is much worse. Conditions were worse than under Mubarak, she said.

“Confrontations [with the authorities] will ebb and flow [but the revolution] cannot quit because the conditions that gave rise to it continue to be in place,” she said.

The wish for change
People have articulated their “dissatisfaction with these conditions and the wish for change”, she added. Since activists of all ages have “invested” in a better future, they were “not going to let go”. The revolution will “recede or go underground for a bit and [then] come back”.

At present, workers are staging strikes across the country, but “ordinary people are challenging the protest movement” which has not yielded reforms Egyptians expected. Consequently, “the street is not pursuing revolution. It is waiting to see what the [next] government will do”.

“What you have now is the military in power but allied with a class of crony capitalists. And that’s about the worst combination you can get.

“Anyone who cares about the army and the army’s standing in the country would really want the army to do its proper job. To be protecting the country. Not to be hand in glove with the ministry of interior . . . It’s a shame, because the army is a popular institution despite [its] misbehaviour,” said Soueif.

Despite Egypt’s reverses over the past three years, she remains optimistic. “I’m very hopeful. Not [for major change] in the next year or so. I think [it must] come right because the alternative is too awful.”

Egypt’s rulers “know in their bones that they are accountable. They know that people are not going to just lie down and go back to where they were.”

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