Counter-revolution: a Quest for Democracy that Continues
It was on Friday, August 12, 2016, at the Marie Gérin-Lajoie room of UQAM that the Grand Conference Arab Spring, 5 Years Later. Egypt as an Example took place. The central theme was the culture of peace and the battle for justice and demilitarization. The conference was organized by Ehah Lotayef : founding member and president of the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy (ECCD), founding member of the Canadian fleet for Gaza, defender of human rights, engineer and poet. His guests were Maha Azzam and Haroon Siddiqui. During this evening, the speakers dealt of the situation in Egypt since the last three years, and then analyzed the current situation and discussed of the short and long term solutions.
As a reminder, the Arab Spring began in Tunisia, blowing a “wind of freedom” in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria and Bahrein. For Egypt, this breath of fresh air gave a lot of hope to the population in establishing a representative democratic government. After the fall of the president, a civil president that was democratically elected took control of the government. It was a first in the political history of Egypt. However, a coup d’état took place on July 3rd, 2013, as a result of an alliance between the economic elite of the country and the military. Ever since that day, Egypt has been governed by a military dictatorship giving itself a false air of democracy. In fact, the country suffers from ” an important financial crisis, a complete disregard of human rights and a politicized justice system. “
Maha Azzam : president of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council, previous member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs
Azzam denounces the abuse of force and the corruption that have taken over Egypt. According to her, it is a shame that the country is able to ignore human rights and democratic principles to that extent. The last reports of Amnesty International and of Human Rights Watch do not praise the country when it comes to the situation concerning human rights. The current government responds to a fascist model, instilling suspicion and division amongst the population. Its weapons are police force and propaganda by the media. Any opposition to the military regime is fought, without any regards to laws and to universally recognized rights. A constant atmosphere of fear reigns, but the dictatorship fails in its objectives of stability and security. Such a political situation create more radicalization and extremism amongst the population.
Egyptians should have the opportunity, just like any other population, to put in place a real democracy serving the citizens. However, a revolution does not happen from one day to another, but rather through waves. Slowly, but surely. The counter-revolution was foreseeable in a system that never really knew what a democracy is. Ironically, the coup d’État should be part of the democratization process. In counterpart, the democratic countries of the Occidental world should provide an example by stopping any support of such a political regime. Only civil and international mobilization will come to terms of this unbearable situation for the Egyptian population. These countries need to stop thinking in a dichotomous way: economic interests vs ethic and human rights. One does not go without the other because the Egyptian population will remember those who endorsed this dictatorship that interfered with its fundamental freedoms of coming together, protesting and expressing itself.
Haroon Siddiqui : distinguised editor of the Toronto Star, member of the order of Canada and of Ontario, author of the bestseller “Being Muslim”
Siddiqui explains that the lack of support from big democratic power as a reflection of their geopolitical and economic interests in the Middle Eastern region. In the recent history of the region, the interventions of the Western world have had important negative impacts. However, the Western world has always denied its responsibility in the different events that have followed its involvement in the region: violence, genocides, civil wars, rise of fundamentalism, the rise to power of military and/or religious dictatorships. According to Siddiqui, it is in part due to the fear triggered by the Muslim Brotherhood. This organization appears like a threat to the Western world because it would be able to rally a lot of supporters to its cause. The Muslim Brotherhood disrupt the status quo formed by the monarchies and their Western allies. We can make the link between the military equipment supplies coming from the Western countries to the Middle East. They protect their interests by ensuring the oppression of any gathering or undesirable demonstration. Finally, Siddiqui calls for everyone to take a stand for the respects of human rights and of democratic principles in Egypt. The Western imaginary needs to wash itself from its simplistic and islamophobic vision of the conflicts currently taking place in the Middle East.