Picture: Demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square on the morning of 27 November 2012 | Credit: Wikimedia Commons - Photo: 2014

‘Egypt On The Brink of New Dictatorship’

By Seyed Mohammad Eslami* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

Iran and Egypt are among the most influential in the cauldron of incessant conflict in the Middle East. After the 2011 Egyptian revolution which ousted President Hosni Mubarak, Iran appointed its first ambassador to Egypt in almost 30 years. Mixed feelings pervade in Iran since Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi was removed from power in the aftermath of popular protest in July 2013. The following article from the Iran Review, the leading independent, non-governmental and non-partisan website, underlines the quandary in which Iran led by President Hassan Rouhani finds itself.

TEHRAN (IDN | Iran Review) – History is apparently repeating itself in Egypt. The interim government of the Arab country has declared the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, banning all its political activities. As a result, from that date (December 25) on, all protest rallies organized by that group will be considered illegal and any Egyptian citizen taking part in those rallies may be sentenced to jail terms of up to five years. Also, “execution” has been declared as the punishment of choice for accepting leadership of the group. The Egyptian government has also banned a newspaper published by the Justice and Freedom Party, which is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Now, everybody is drawing an analogy between the army-backed interim government of Egypt and the governments of King Farouk and [the country’s former dictator] Hosni Mubarak. Both those governments shed the blood of the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters. However, it seems that the developments in Egypt should be assessed in the light of the country’s realities. The following points may prove useful when evaluating the existing circumstances in Egypt.

Not the end of Muslim Brotherhood’s political life

First of all, it should be noted that nobody supports the efforts made to muffle the voice of a political current in Egypt. This is especially true when that current happens to be the Muslim Brotherhood which has deep roots in all areas of the Egyptian society. The Muslim Brotherhood is currently a transnational movement whose branches have been active – both overtly and covertly – in many regional countries, including Jordan, Libya, Syria, Qatar, Turkey, Yemen.

The group is about nine decades old and after the lapse of almost 14 years, it can hold its centennial birthday party. Therefore, declaring the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group and considering extensive restrictions for its political activities will not necessarily mean that this is the end of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Just in the same way that the trail blazed by the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, was not terminated through his assassination, the current path that the Muslim Brotherhood is treading will not end through decisions made by the new government of Egypt.

Therefore, the day will inevitably come when history will judge about the decision that the current rulers of Egypt have taken on the Muslim Brotherhood. This is true as during the past year, the Muslim Brotherhood only called for peaceful demonstrations and it has even sternly condemned a recent explosion in the city of Mansoura [which was used as an excuse by the interim government to ban the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood].

Lack of  influence over other political groups

It should be, however, noted that all political groups and other influential groups in Egypt did, and still are doing, their part in taking the country to where it stands right now. From this viewpoint, more attention should be paid to the role played by the Muslim Brotherhood in the past three years.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood fell victim to a full-blown military coup d’état last year, it has been instrumental in the escalation of tensions by losing multiple opportunities and paving the way for the military to stage the coup d’état. Let’s not forget that before losing its political power as a result of the military coup, the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt had already lost a great deal of its influence among the Egyptian masses. During two years of their failed rule, instead of bringing all political groups under a single umbrella, the Muslim Brotherhood leaders tried to marginalize and exclude them one after the other. At last, no other political group was represented in the Muslim Brotherhood government.

During the past two years, instead of focusing on increasing the efficiency of their government, the Muslim Brotherhood included its members in all the ranks of the government from the topmost echelon all the way down to the lowermost layers. They did not even try to take necessary legal steps in this regard in order to protect themselves against possible charges and accusations. Before having the new constitution passed by the Egyptian parliament, the Muslim Brotherhood, which was beyond itself with joy at having grasped a majority at the parliament, decided to arrange for renewed parliamentary elections. After the new parliament convened, the government tasked it with drawing up the country’s new constitution.

It is also noteworthy that the Muslim Brotherhood’s insistence on passing a supplement to the constitution through the Egyptian parliament was, in fact, the coup de grace to the Brotherhood government. According to the supplement, the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, was supposed to become unrivaled ruler of Egypt. The supplement elicited vehement protests from various social strata and made the Egyptian people pour into the streets once again at the iconic Liberation Square of Cairo on the anniversary of their 2011 revolution.

Of course, this article by no means represents an attempt to ignore the role played in Egypt’s developments by political groups loyal to former Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak; those opposed to the presence of Islamist groups in power, as well as certain regional players such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. Of course, it should be noted that during two years in power, the Muslim Brotherhood leaders projected such an image of themselves that it seemed as if they looked upon all democratic mechanisms as just means of securing their exclusive power. It was due to these track records that the Egyptian military officials reached the conclusion that they can easily depose the first Egyptian president who had been chosen through free elections without breaking a sweat.

It was again for the same reasons that a considerable majority of the Egyptian people did not consider the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government as an end to their revolution. Therefore, the demonstrations that took place following the coup were only attended by the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. As a result of the aforementioned developments, other political groups did not reach the conclusion that a national catastrophe has taken place and did not feel any necessity to become united and this time against the country’s army as their common enemy.

Toward dictatorship

Despite the above facts, the political assassination of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been done through the new statement issued by the interim government, can be considered the harbinger of a new era of dictatorship in this Arab country. It is noteworthy that the Egyptian interim government has banned any form of protest rallies across the country regardless of whether they are organized by the Muslim Brotherhood or other groups.

Even members of Tamarod (Rebellion) Movement, who played a critical role in the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government, have announced that the country’s new law of demonstrations is against Egypt’s constitution. On the other hand, Hizb El-Dostour (The Constitution Party) of Egypt, which was founded by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mohammad ElBaradei, has vehemently protested to the contents of the new constitution according to which civilians can stand trial at military courts.

Meanwhile, Ahmed Maher, the head and one of the co-founders of the April 6 Youth Movement – a civil society movement which was opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood government – has been sent to jail after he was arrested in demonstrations held in protest to the new constitution. Therefore, it will not be illogical to assume that Egypt is in for a new era of dictatorship and despotism.

*Seyed Mohammad Eslami is an expert on Middle East Issues. This article was originally published by Khorasan Newspaper and made available in English by Iran Review on December 29, 2013 under the headline Mistakes Are Taking Egypt to Brink of New Dictatorship. It is being is being reproduced – with slight modifications – by arrangement with Iran Review. [IDN-InDepthNews – January 02, 2014]

Picture: Demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on the morning of 27 November 2012 | Credit: Wikimedia Commons

2014 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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