What has changed so far in Egypt? LSE Alum, writer and blogger Marina Chamma considers.
By Marina Chamma
We all know that barely two years after a revolution is rather early to assess its success, but for some Egyptians, the prospects of the post-revolution era are not looking particularly bright already.
In a recent talk in Beirut by Mohammad al-Agaty, head of the Arab Alternative Forum for Studies and member of the Popular Socialist Alliance, and Reem Maged, an Egyptian journalist and ONTV host, both agreed that beyond the surface of a new era in the making, new alleged freedoms and the absence of former regime members, deep down, not a lot of changes have taken place in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is slowly exerting control in the same ways that the previous regime did, al-Agaty noted, through populating public offices, mostly with Muslim Brothers as well as with people who have the proper technical credentials and also happen to be Islamists, along with a miscellany of others just to show they accept some diversity. Thus far, the new regime’s foreign policy has remained unchanged, except for an increase in public solidarity towards the Palestinian cause. The Brotherhood already lost some support in the recent presidential elections as compared to its gains in the parliamentary elections earlier this year, yet Alagaty argued that their appeal and popularity is far from diminishing.
Along the same lines, and with a closer focus on the media in the post-revolution era, Maged asserted that attacks on her profession still exist just as they used to during the Mubarak era. She stressed the need for revolutions to take place, this time in each sector and in each profession, for real change to be institutionalized across society. Within the media, the establishment of unions, legal standards and a mechanism for accountability are still needed to insure that journalists are protected and not used for purposes other than showcasing matters of public interest, as well as safeguarded from arbitrary government actions to censor them. Egyptian’s thirst for change is unquestionable, if only by the 1,600 demonstrations and protests that have taken place in 2012 alone, Maged noted. However, the question remains whether, in spite of public discontent, an alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood is currently available in case it falls short of public aspirations.
Indeed, it is too early to tell what the future will bring. Renowned Egyptian blogger and activist Wael Abbas told me on the sidelines of SHARE Beirut, an Internet conference held this month, that it all depended on the nature of the new constitution. But again, with Muslim Brothers and Salafis outnumbering those with more secular and liberal tendencies in the committee which is rewriting the constitution, prospects weren’t very bright for major changes in Egypt from the time of the Mubarak era, he said. For an activist who made a name for himself by shedding light on Mubarak-era human right violations and paid a heavy price for doing so, Abbas and fellow civil society advocates are in a wait-and-see mode. Violations since the ousting of Mubarak have not been many, except against minorities, most notably Christians. “There doesn’t seem to be a political will to protect minorities,” he sadly noted. Reiterating the need to wait for the new constitution to see the light, Abbas reflects that the revolution wasn’t as successful as portrayed in the media, appealing for everyone’s solidarity in highlighting all the work that is left to be done.
Asking the very question of whether the revolution has succeeded in bringing fundamental change is in itself a complex question, depending on who you ask and that person’s own vision of Egypt’s future. Yet for those of us who believed Egypt could blossom into a secular, democratic and pluralistic state, where people had learned about oppression and corruption the hard way so as not to allow them to take hold again, we are closely following developments for our final verdict. However, each day that passes proves that we will be disappointed.
Marina Chamma holds a BA in Political Science from the American University of Beirut and an MSc in International Political Economy from the London School of Economics. She is a writer and blogger at eyeontheeast.org. You can also follow her on twitter @eyeontheeast.
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