Egypt

Looking to Egypt, the past 10 days have been especially tumultuous. Some of this was expected. Jan. 25 marked the two-year anniversary of the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution and was a day on which demonstrations had been planned long in advance. The next day, a judge in Port Said sentenced 21 to death in their involvement with the soccer riots that killed 74 a year ago. The ruling led to mass rioting, in Port Said and around the country, in which over 30 more people were killed. The sentencing was going to be controversial regardless of how the judge ruled, and yet Egyptian forces seemed completely unprepared for the ensuing protests. The military and police force are quickly losing the little legitimacy they had because of their treatment of demonstrators. This video shows Egyptian police stripping a protester and beating him while firing tear gas into a crowd. President Mohamed Morsi has also lost much of his legitimacy as a leader. Although he was democratically elected, he has since gathered powers of the other branches of government under himself, creating a new autocracy in Egypt and earning himself the nickname “Egypt’s new pharaoh.” He hides in the presidential palace and uses the military and police forces to hold protestors at bay. He addresses the nation through his personal Twitter and Facebook accounts, rather than press conferences or other public appearances. He has rarely acknowledged the protests still raging in his nation and does nothing do address the problems faced by the great majority of the Egyptian populace, including unemployment, poverty and sexual harassment. Just this week, the Egyptian Ministry of Justice was considering drafting new anti-protest legislation. Key points of the proposed legislation include:

  1. Expanding the rights of police officers to use force
  2. Requiring protesters to give the MOI five days notice of any demonstration (all of which are already publicly planned and known about well in advance)
  3. Requiring protesters to keep a minimum distance of 500 meters (1640 feet) from buildings like the presidential palace, police stations and governmental departments
  4. Imposing a fine between 20,000 and 50,000 Egyptian Pounds ($2,978.32 to 7,445.80) on protesters who protest after 11 p.m. 
  5. A clause that allows the interior minister, if he has “good grounds,” to ask a judge to cancel, postpone or relocate a planned demonstration

Aside from the innumerable ways the Egyptian government could potentially abuse this law, this more disturbing fact remains: a government that is trying to recreate itself as democratic is also simultaneously crafting anti-protest legislation obviously designed not to protect protesters, but to keep them from exercising their constitutional rights. Article 50 of the new Egyptian Constitution preserves the right to assembly and article 81 states no law may limit the essence of the rights and freedoms set out in the constitution. Actions like these, continually being taken by the Egyptian government, show how little legitimacy it has left. The government does not truly represent the Egyptian people. The old and the powerful from the former regime still hold all of the positions of power in Egypt. The young in Egypt inspired the revolution but have reaped none of the benefits. They changed the country, but now they have no part in the political process. Their voices are no longer heard. They take to the streets because it is their only option if they want to make themselves heard. And yet the politicians, put into power by the revolution carried out by this generation, refuse to listen. 

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