6 July 2013
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Tahrir square two years on
A little over two years ago I wrote a poem about the Egyptian uprising and the celebrations in Tahrir Square on 11 February 2011. At that time there was jubilation because the dictator, Mubarak, had been overthrown and the general thought in Egypt was that freedom would follow the overthrow of the dictator. I suggested in my poem that the celebrations were perhaps rather too soon. Sadly this appears to be the case.
Yesterday, 30th of June 2013, following a long period of protest there was a huge protest again in Tahrir square. This time it was against the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood and in particular, President Morsi. The complaint is that he is ruling in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood rather than for the Egyptian people as a whole and that he has not delivered on his promises. People are more desperately poor than they were before under President Mubarak.
This difficulty (the desperate unhappiness with democracy) has arisen because elections followed swiftly after the overthrow of Mubarak. All those who opposed him were united in their opposition to him but were not organised into political parties focused around a particular political programme. Only the Muslim Brotherhood were organised and they were able through their organisation to secure a majority of votes in the election. The organisation of political parties is vital to the functioning of a national democracy.
The protests will go on. In the meantime, by clicking this YouTube video link you can hear the sound of celebration in Tahrir Square in February 2011 and also my poem about that occasion. At the end of the video you can hear Egyptians speaking about their joy and hopes on that day.
The celebration of Egyptian democracy is still premature
Egypt is learning democracy. In February 2011 massive street protests, especially in Tahrir Square, led to the downfall of President Mubarak. At this point the Egyptian people were wild with jubilation, as if getting rid of a dictator would automatically usher in a new era of justice peace and prosperity. The jubilation appeared premature. See the 2011 page of the Warpoetry Website for some poems.
The first-ever democratic elections in Egypt followed six months later. Those who had so vehemently opposed Mubarak were not well-organised into political parties with political programmes of action from which the electorate could make sensible choices. The groupings that existed were not well-known. Only the Muslim Brotherhood, which had existed as an organisation since 1928, was ready to field candidates and with a programme to present to the people. Even so, the brotherhood won the elections by a fairly small margin. The Brotherhood’s leader, Mohammed Morsi, made promises to rule on behalf of all Egyptians and improve the economic lot of the majority of Egyptians. In the event, he appeared to be set primarily on converting Egypt into an Islamic State with Sharia law whilst failing to pay attention to improving the economic conditions of the ordinary Egyptian.
The first week of July 2013 was a week of crisis for democracy in Egypt. The sense of outrage at the failure of President Morsi to keep his promises, and even worse for failing to appear to be aiming to keep his promises, brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets across Egypt. On Monday the Egyptian army announced that if President Morsi did not change tack by agreeing a compromise with those who criticised his failures then it would act. On Wednesday a defiant President Morsi issued a statement saying that he was democratically elected and nobody has a right to call for his removal and that he would not change his policies.
Early on Thursday, 4 July, the Egyptian Army arrested President Morsi and some of his key supporters.
Huge pro-Morsi demonstrations followed even larger demonstrations celebrating the downfall of President Morsi. Huge, vehement and opposing crowds confronted each other on the streets. The situation was clearly volatile and the possibility of civil war appeared.
Democracies are not supposed to work like this. Whilst politicians in democracies often fail to keep their promises they are expected at the very least to appear to be trying to keep them. Normally elected leaders are allowed to carry on as long as they feel able to fulfil their promised programme.
Quite understandably, the Muslim Brotherhood claimed that the army had carried out a coup and that this was anti democratic. But democracy does mean rule by the people and it was clear that the people’s expressed will had been ignored by President Morsi to such an extent that they could tolerate his failure is no longer.
Once again, celebrating the downfall of a deeply unpopular leader is a little premature.
The army appears to be taking a sensible line and acting in the interests of all Egyptians. It has installed an interim president and has a plan to bring forward fresh elections when, hopefully, those who were not so well organised into political parties last time will be better organised so that the Egyptian people can be offered real choices.
For the present the Egyptian Army has suspended the constitution, it has plans to install a civilian technocratic government, the supreme court has been ordered to organise parliamentary elections and presidential polls, and something not so easy to understand is that a “charter of honour” will be drawn up to be followed by the media.
The army also claims to be taking measures to empower young people and to set up a national reconciliation committee.
The army has major task in keeping the supporters of President Morsi apart from the masses who have brought about his downfall. Serious clashes have taken place. On Friday, 5 July, across Egypt 30 people were killed and more than 1000 injured. The army says that protest is permissible but violence is not. It will intervene to prevent violence.
There are many difficulties remaining along the road to democracy in Egypt. The rightful and urgently necessary struggle of the Egyptian people goes on. My poem about the Egyptian revolution remains relevant.
30 July 2013
Egyptian army making serious mistakes.
Only two weeks ago I wrote,
“The army appears to be taking a sensible line and acting in the interests of all Egyptians. It has installed an interim president and has a plan to bring forward fresh elections when, hopefully, those who were not so well organised into political parties last time will be better organised so that the Egyptian people can be offered real choices. . . the supreme court has been ordered to organise parliamentary elections and presidential polls. . . The army has major task in keeping the supporters of President Morsi apart from the masses who have brought about his downfall.”
51 Muslim Brotherhood supporters killed on Monday, 8 July 2013
The killing 51 peaceful protesters, Muslim Brotherhood supporters, by the Egyptian army cannot be justified. Their demonstration appears to have been legitimate and even if it was not then minimum force should have been used - and this cannot possibly be what was actually done. This was a tragic day for Egypt.
On Saturday 27th of July at least 120 pro-Morsi supporters were killed by the Egyptian army at a sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya, east Cairo. Many thousands of his supporters had been camping there for over three weeks.
For success democracy depends on compromise, moderation, negotiation, discussion, willingness to listen, patience, respect for human rights, respect for the views of those with whom one disagrees. The use of brute force by the Egyptian army, whatever its protestations of believing in democracy and wishing to bring forward elections in due course, is extremely counter-productive and worrying. It is a complete betrayal of the revolution of February 2011 which was the subject of my poem that may be seen on YouTube.
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