The Egyptian Revolution: The Game is not over yet
Impuls 03/2011 by Manal Tibe, Egyptian Center for Housing Rights (ECHR)
Nach dreiwöchigem Massenprotest haben die Ägypter ihren Präsidenten zum Rücktritt gezwungen. In welche Richtung es jetzt jedoch weitergeht, ist auch nach dem Referendum zur Verfassungsänderung noch offen, meint Manal Tibe, Leiterin einer ägyptischen Menschenrechtsorganisation. In diesem Impuls-Artikel beschreibt sie die aktuell größten Gefahren und Herausforderungen und nennt ihre Erwartungen an die internationale Gemeinschaft.
In February 11, 2011, Hosni Mubarak stepped down and transferred his powers to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (herein after SCAF or the Council), which promised to carry out political reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptians. The Council announced his management of the country for six months or until the election of a new president.
In spite of the achievements of the revolution, many unaccomplished tasks lay ahead in order to achieve democratic change in the country. There is no doubt that the Egyptian society lived over thirty years under an authoritarian regime that oppressed the Egyptians at all levels: politically, economically, and culturally as well. The Egyptian Revolution came as a natural result of tyrant policies in what was called "a revolution of anger". Yet, the revolution committed itself to a peaceful struggle despite the extreme violence that was adopted by the former regime to confront it. Indeed, the peaceful nature of the Egyptian revolution was the basic factor to attract international respect and sympathy.
Challenges and the threat of counter-revolution
To complete the Egyptian revolution and carry out substantial changes in the society many tasks must be accomplished, including (but not limited to) the following:
- The complete disposal of the former regime and the establishment of a civil state.
- Eliminating corruption, and prosecution of former corrupt officials.
- Building societal peace through national reconciliation (Muslims/Christians, police/citizens…etc.).
- Eliminating of poverty and unemployment.
- Rebuilding the societal culture (tolerance and democracy).
The revolution is facing many obstacles in order to accomplish these tasks. The absence of revolutionary leadership or entity capable of forming an interim transitional government led to the mandate of the SCAF to manage the country during the transitional period. This raises a lot of concerns and fears of relapse, as the revolution is no longer in the hands of its owners.
Counter-revolution is the most serious threat to democratic reform. The SCAF continuous disregard of the public demands and objections is an extension of the old methods of Mubarak's regime, a dictatorial behavior that infringes on the rights of the Egyptian people, and a trickery to the demands of the revolution that require a critical and popular stand against such decisions to preclude the escalation of consequences.
Human rights organizations and the interim period
It was natural for human rights organizations to interact with the Egyptian revolution by supporting its demands both locally and internationally, and by defending the rebels that were arrested, tortured and subjected to all kinds of cruel, de-grading, and inhuman treatment, to which human rights activists also were subjected to due to their support for the legitimate revolutionary demands.
After Mubarak has stepped down and the SCAF has taken over power, it was also natural that human rights organizations would interact with the interim period to support peaceful democratic transition as a whole as well as on different levels and in different fields, each according to its specialty.
One of the difficulties encountered by those organizations is the significant marginalization by the SCAF and later on by the government as they have been excluded from consultations. Moreover, the transitional period brings about a state of confusion, because human rights organizations do not know whether this period will bring a democratic government that will respect their mission, or a hard-line government that will rock their entire work.
The international community has a responsibility to support civil society organizations in Egypt to handle the current situation and to create a true democratic change, highlight the importance of guaranteeing protection for the activists, and highlight the importance of engaging human rights organizations in the process of consultation. In addition, the international community should not only support civil and political rights, but also economic and social rights to help achieving tangible developmental changes that represent greater challenges in the coming phase. Furthermore, despite the lack of strong and concrete initiatives of civil society organizations to work on building societal peace, especially among Muslims and Christians, police and citizens, these initiatives will be established in a coming stage and they should be strongly supported by the international community.
Tasks for the international community
The Egyptian and the Tunisian revolutions have demonstrated beyond any doubt that the support of international powers to democracy and human rights are false allegations. For thirty years, Mubarak was a friend and a strategic ally of such powers, led by the United States and Europe.
Now, the international community finds itself in a very delicate position as it reflects on its reaction to the uprisings in the region. It is essential that the international community puts the interests of the peoples of the region at the heart of its future policy. It is the right of the peoples of this region to defend their independ-ence, interests, and their right to self-determination. The international community has to recognize that safeguarding their interests does not necessarily have to be at the expense of the interests of the peoples of the region. In this regard, the Palestinian issue is one of the most important issues of concern to the Egyptian people, who look forward to end the siege on Gaza, unify the Palestinian factions, and reach a fair solution to the Palestinian-Israeli dilemma. These issues are problematic to the Egyptian people, and the international powers have to be aware of such matters and play a positive and balanced role in the region without bias to one party against another.
Therefore, western actors especially western governments should be aware of the credibility they might have lost, the need for an honest approach to democracy and human rights, and the need for a fair solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict and they should start to reform their policies towards the Middle East region especially towards the people of the region who suffered for decades not only be-cause of their authoritarian regimes, but also because of the western centric interests' policies.
In doing so, international community including western actors' support would take two approaches: first one is to support bringing democracy, development, and peace to the region through supporting direct reform processes such as con-stitutional and legislative reform, multi-party system, equality including gender equality at the communal level, building of social peace and social tolerance, along the support of development plans that aim at improving the standard of living of citizens, especially at the level of employment, housing, and health.
However, to achieve a sustainable democracy, development, and peace; it is very important to international community including western actors to support the reform process in two fields; first is education reform to be a civic education ra-ther than religious one, and second is to support the process to increase the community participation in the political and decision-making process not only at the local level, but also at the national and international level.
Revolutions are always accompanied by many expectations. If these are not met, people become frustrated. It is difficult to predict what will happen in the coming months. Even so Mubarak is gone, the regime is still there and fights the Revolution strongly. The power of the SCAF and its behavior during the previous period raise lots of concerns and anxiety over the fate of the revolution and thus the fate of the country.
It is clear that the SCAF did not wish a radical change in the country. The actions it took so far suggest that only limited reforms will be implemented and that the reins of power will be handed to two main powers: the Muslim Brotherhood and the National Party (the former ruling party). Such a situation would perhaps require a corrective revolution to rectify the path of the January revolution. Would the rebels be able to correct the course of revolution, or would they be satisfied by that level of reforms? This is what will be answered in the next months.
Manal Tibe is the director of the Egyptian Center for Housing Rights (ECHR).