By Hwaa Irfan
As a foreigner who has lived in the north and south of Egypt, one is fully aware of the marked difference between the two cultures. The culture of the south is calmer, and richer, because it has greater self identity culturally, and in faith (Muslims and non-Muslims). In the northern city of Cairo, the battle of self identity is greater, as in any other city around the world, and the dog-eat-dog mentality as one foreigner put it prevails. It is with knowledge and understanding of the trials and tribulations of the Egyptian people, and the survival mechanisms that they put in place that one is able to live, for without that understanding, their hearts cannot be read with any degree of accuracy.
If one has ever had that intense feeling, that a never ending stream of incidents that seems to push one to the brink, day, after day, after day, and that if anyone says a wrong word, makes the wrong assumption that one will explode, then imagine holding that feeling for over 30 years without respite. That is the nature of the feeling behind Egypt’s people revolution that erupted via the youth on January 25th 2011. It had always been said that if Egyptians were to let go the whole of Cairo would go on fire, but that is Cairo, which sees itself as Egypt.
On the exhale of the breath of God, it was with awe that one witnessed the way in which the revolution spread throughout the masses, like watching a chrysalis about to transform. All the compassion that had been bottled up for years making people unable to communicate with compassion came bursting forth, with the awe-inspiring action of the youth. What could have erupted into chaos in a developed country instead gave way to community responsibility for crimes committed not only by the pre-revolutionary regime, but the opportunists that roamed the streets. Taking care of the community became a shared responsibility, and so did taking care of the area in which one lived.
The people could not get enough of it, the feeling of belonging, of being empowered, but this is not one will find in the corporate press which thrives on mayhem, and it is mayhem that has erupted in hotspots to calm down again.
Without that common sense of responsibility which gives birth to a sense of belonging, the Egyptian people stand tested by their actions. Admittedly, there are still far too many who do not care, who only have material gain in mind, and who will seek benefit no matter who or what is sponsoring them. The times have been far from easy. Private businesses have gone under, and the cost of living continues to go up everyday, and there is confusion in the minds of the people and their demands from an interim government, forgetting that they are not here to stay and forgetting what the priorities should be.
Far too many Egyptians are still only conscious of their immediate personal issues, and are unaware of what the governing authorities have achieved in the name of the revolution, and are unaware of the global economic crisis and thus Egypt’s position in that crisis. Instead of being encouraged, the governing authorities are facing daily demands of the people, of the region, of the continent, and from the powerful influences directed towards Egypt from a globally unrecognized government.
The people along with the governing authorities have in their hands the power to shape their own democracy without claiming any dysfunctional democracy from the outside world, and it is this they need to be reminded of and to take care of after all it is this that has inspired so many to take a stand in the Western world. It may be a position they did not ask for, but it is a position that has to be filled, and facilitated not until all the corruption has been purged by officials, but until the collective sense of purpose felt after January 25th 201 is reignited.
Yes that collective harmony has dissipated drastically, and the following depression after the mass protests of Friday 08th July 2011, was heavy in the air by the next day, because people returned to the reality that their economic circumstances are getting worse, and they can see no immediate way out of it.
The youth of the January 25th Revolution stand out in the crowd of Egyptian youth, and where they have been called on to speak, to give guidance they should take that position. Yes, they are fully aware that there are other voices, and other demands, but until like those groups and political parties, the youth of the January 25th Revolution have a moral obligation to the people that cannot be fulfilled by anyone else, and that moral obligation is a process of becoming better people who are there for one another enough to survive any trials, and to survive any tribulations.
The planned mass protests that took place on Friday 80th July 2011 in Lower Egypt, from Alexandria, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, Beheira, Assiut, Monufiya, Gharbiya to Tahrir Square in Cairo, was about the slow process of the judicial system. Dissatisfied with the way in which corrupt police and some top officials have been not been charged and imprisoned, and dissatisfied with the performance of the Armed Forces. The protests demanded transparency including the televising of the trials and:
“A real purge, real trials, a real cabinet”
It is far too easy to criticize, although 30 years of reason to doubt makes it very difficult to trust even though Egyptian Armed Forces, and the interim cabinet are facing a broke down system where there has been no one really to ‘hand over’ or ‘take over from.’ While the Armed Forces have had to handle everything from the nation’s economy, employment sector, education sector, health sector, agricultural sector, water security, national security, human rights, foreign relations, counter revolutionary threats from within the nation, and from without while still aiming for a September election so as not to lose the faith of the people.
With all the charges brought against officials, there is one thing that should be done, that if not done is counter revolutionary, and that is the accumulation of evidence that says innocent until proven guilty – in other words, the same concerns of the revolution should be applied throughout.
To demand a fast process with the current system in place, tempts false charges, and therefore sentences, which could result in imprisoning the wrong people, while those truly responsible get away at least for a while. Then there is the additional problem of a corrupt police force, of which several attempts have been made to rectify the situation in the shortest and quickest possible way. This has obviously not worked as evidenced by the violence that occurs when the police have been put on duty, but this it to be expected.
1) By what mechanism does one build evidence against a police officer when the evidence falls upon two requirements: a) The evidence that has been destroyed within the police force, b) the witness able to accurately identify a police officer in a given place, time, and supporting evidence?
2) When found guilty, and convicted, the corrupt official is still present in society whether that is in prison, or in society. He has developed a particular way of working, and that includes corruption, and bullying (offering blood money to the families of the martyrs – those who were killed and tortured in the protests). If full of revenge, he still has the ability to enact revenge, and may b the reason behind the violent flare ups, prison breaks etc. In other words, charged or not charged, he becomes a threat to society.
In other words, is the solution of convicting officials a real societal solution, or a solution that adds to destabilizing the society more?
July 09th 2011 onwards – A wave of arrests of corrupt police officials took place in Alexandria
Some form or reconciliation needs to take place to heal the whole of society without fearing who to trust as exampled by the families of the martyrs who were called away from protesting into an entrapment that sought to criminalize them, and punish them. The people responsible may be officials, and may also be citizens, who will do anything to prevent being found out as they know that they would not be able to live with any dignity in Egypt. Therefore beginning with the police force, all should be re-trained. If they are successful throughout their training they would have earned an entitled increased salary as a part of taking up their duty, with an over-riding body (which can come from the January 25th Revolution) to monitor their performance. In this way, the police will know their true position in relation to society, and have the chance to correct that position without being cast out.
If the judicial system is operating has it always has done, and has a long list of other cases awaiting trial, would it not be more practical to set up a special judicial system for the sole purpose of processing the crimes of the old regime This could then be televised allowing for any new evidence to come to the surface, allowing for the filtering of false claims, and involving the people who still need to build trust where trust is not misplaced.
09th July 2011 – Interim Prime Minister Essam Sharif supported the Judicial decision to set up a special court for the charges brought against members of the old regime.
Interim Prime Minister Essam Sharif began a significant cabinet reshuffle
Now is the time to build trust, and to form short-term and long term solutions. What can be done well now should be done now, and what requires years to build: health, education, employment housing, agriculture etc, should be left to the new government.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces suspended the September elections, because of the public debate which is divided between elections first, or new constitution first. To build a house, first the foundation must be set, and for the foundations to not falter, they must be set in ground that supports the foundations. In other words, it is logical that the constitution should come first in order to protect the people, the land and to develop a sustainable future. Before the Egyptian stock market was reopened, there were healthy discussions and seminars amongst Egyptian economists, most constructive of idea being the need of an economic constitution. By setting the new Constitution in place, the country will not be prone to comings and goings of each election, and exploitation by global institutions and investors. With time the Constitution can be refined, but not without public debate and a referendum.
As for the political forces who are suddenly active in the protests and sit-ins, they ALL should be tested via a series of televised discussions on all the issues by the public incorporating a live audience, and phone-ins. In this way Egyptian television can serve its role in the shaping of a people’s democracy, and in this way all aspects of the new Constitution facilitating public debate and understanding, thus reducing further commitment by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces who should be respected for what they have achieved, what they will achieved, and forgiven for any mistakes done out of expediency.
17th July 2011 – Egyptian state television began live coverage of the trials of members of the old regime.
Former President Mubarak’s trial is scheduled 03rd August, although facing deteriorating health
Despite the level of mistrust of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces cast by the foreigners, it must be understood that – well at least I can think of no other people who have an authoritative force who they can count upon to facilitate their demands. One has the right to question, but that right evaporates into thin air in the West. One has the right to criticize, but it is far more constructive to offer solutions, give advice, and practical support where possible. After 30 years, the people are tired, and then were temporarily rejuvenated, and are now depressed, do not lose the moment to find the balance, to support each other, and to formulate the bridge across tomorrow.
17th July 2011 – The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces announced the preparations for the upcoming elections will start September 18th.
The guidelines for the formation of a representative constituent assembly that will draft Egypt’s new constitution following the elections has been agreed by some presidential candidates.
The UN is offering technical support for the elections, although this expertise already exists amongst Egyptian NGOs!