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The unresolved Egyptian crisis

The latest Russian-American truce in Syria does not mean that the crisis is over. Far from it. Moreover, the insurgency in Syria seems to have overshadowed another crisis in the region.


The overthrow of Mohammed Morsi, the democratically-elected President of Egypt and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has left Egypt in political turmoil, disorder and chaos.

In 2011 the call for bread, freedom and social justice reverberated throughout the length and breadth of Egypt. This call has now been silenced brutally by the Western and regionally supported military led by General Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi. The entire Muslim Brotherhood leadership is now in detention, including Morsi; the charges against them include incitement and murder. In fact, some have already been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Egypt finds itself in the midst of one of its bloodiest episodes in decades, a crisis that has split the country apart. It is now entrenched in an even more regressive authoritarian order than the one that preceded it and for which the people took to the streets in protest and revolution. The state of emergency allows for indefinite detention and a curfew enforced by soldiers backed by tanks.

The country is now solidly under the control of the army, aided by submissive state and private media outlets that have helped whip up a wave of bigoted, nationalist sentiment praising the army and police and demonising the Brotherhood. The military is conducting the crackdown under the rhetoric of a "war on terror" with a divisive discourse that paints nearly all Islamists as terrorists unfit for political life. Most of the so-called liberal elite, political pundits and youth groups have jumped on the same "war on terror" bandwagon.

Today, Egypt is a crisis-state par excellence. It is oscillating between the disastrous Algerian, Somali and Syrian models. What is even more dangerous than this is the spread of hate through the media's vicious anti-Islamist campaign.

It is clear, in the aftermath of the Egyptian coup, that the security agencies of the Mubarak era remained entirely integral, untouched and shameless after the January 25 Revolution. While Morsi was in power, the security apparatus appeared reluctant to carry out their legal responsibilities. They failed to investigate crimes and apprehend the perpetrators; corruption was rife. While in office, President Morsi assessed several options to reform the security sector; to be successful he would have had to invoke extra-judicial powers, such was the extent of the reforms necessary. He was reluctant to do so as he did not want to set a dangerous precedent.

Under military rule, state institutions have become tools of unprovoked oppression. The army is uncaring and ruthless with no respect for Egyptian lives. Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood has declared openly that its pro-democracy and legitimacy demonstrations will remain peaceful and true to their humanity and conscience. The movement is determined to defend the country against dictatorship and tyranny to ensure a free and prosperous future for Egypt's children.

In the opinion of the former head of Israel's spy agency Mossad, Ephraim Halevy, General Al-Sisi and his regional allies led by Saudi Arabia, intended to inflict a reverberating defeat on the Muslim Brotherhood. Israel has also maintained a close and enthusiastic relationship with Al-Sisi with whom it has coordinated joint security efforts in the Sinai Peninsula. The coup engineers have no intention of bringing the Brotherhood back into mainstream Egyptian politics. Instead, the process to label the Brotherhood as a "terrorist" organisation has been set in motion because of its close ties with Hamas and Hezbollah; it is now officially a banned organisation in its homeland of Egypt.

To quote British journalist Robert Fisk, "The language [used against the Brotherhood] speaks for itself. Not just a common or garden 'terrorist' plot – but a 'terrorist' plot so terrible that it is 'malicious'. Naturally, the government acquired this use of the 'terrorist' word from Bush and Blair, another Western contribution to Arab culture."

This "terrorist" label, Al-Sisi and his allies hope, will unseat the Brotherhood completely from Egyptian politics. In the short term they may seem to have succeeded, but let us not forget the 85 year history of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its social, economic and political foundations remain intact despite the current repression.

Morsi's ouster demonstrated that the Brotherhood, although well organised, actually had very little political vision. Within its ranks it lacked the expertise to run state institutions such as the judiciary and the security cluster. To overcome this, the president looked to the old order for assistance. This proved to be a costly error of judgement. They were not prepared to sacrifice the privileges they enjoyed under the Mubarak regime. The democratically-elected Morsi became a lame duck president and destined to fail.

It is very hard sometimes to participate in the sorrows of this world when we witness so much injustice, so much poverty, so many deaths and so much hypocrisy. How do we participate in a meaningful and moral way in such a world? How do we know if we are making a difference or are we failing to do so? We struggle with these questions daily because we see so much that is morally and legally wrong.

Democracy in Egypt has been aborted like an unwanted foetus. The West's support for the coup can only be described as disgraceful. It is a gross violation of international law. The military does not represent the free will of the people of Egypt; its leadership is more answerable to Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh than to the Egyptians. The "legitimacy" that comes from America's acceptance is more valuable to the coup leaders than that which comes from the free electoral will of their own people. If there is any optimism to be had from all of this, it is that this fact alone may make the coup experience both short-lived and unsuccessful. We can but hope.

The writer is a Senior Researcher at Media Review Network, South Africa

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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