This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Egypt's Past Repeated

"In my entire career as a lawyer, I had never encountered [forced disappearances] until now."
"I’m still trying to understand it."
Amro Hassan, Association for Free Thought and Expression, Cairo

"Most of the people who disappeared [in the mid-1990s, when Egypt was grappling with a violent Islamist insurgency] were radical Islamists."
"What happens now is someone is kidnapped and then sent to court later on trumped-up charges."
Mohamed Zarea, head, Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners
A demonstrator holds up his chained hands as journalists and members of the April 6 movement protest in Cairo against the restriction of press freedom and arrests of reporters and activists ahead of a planned general strike. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters)
"The goal seems to be to terrorize society, to show that anyone who dares criticize the government will face a similar fate."
Mohamed Elmissiry, Amnesty International

Egypt's Tahrir Square revolution that was initiated by liberal socialists and young students originally in sympathy with the country's poor struggling to afford food and oil, let alone health care, and then transitioned to a protest against the authoritarian rule of long-time President Hosni Mubarak, attempted to unshackle the country from its rigid autocracy and the fear instilled by Egyptian police who were given free rein to terrorize the public, rather than focus on rampant crime.

Witnessing the gradual burgeoning support of the Egyptian middle class who began attending the protests, the Muslim Brotherhood gave its support as well to the protests, organizing and presenting their own suitably muted agenda, popular with the underclass for their humanitarian aid in providing food, medicine and Islamist politics to give  hope of a better future for the provincial poverty-stricken.

With their support enlisted, a popular swelling favouring the Muslim Brotherhood culminated in an election bringing them to power with Mohamed Morsi as president.

The Muslim Brotherhood and President Morsi, given validation and support from their carefully cultivation of Egypt's religious lower class and on the part of the Obama administration, administered the country's affairs from an Islamist perspective without cultivating needed administration-level initiatives that would improve the lives of Egyptians, leading to worsening economic distress and push-back from Egypt's majority who saw their lives becoming ever more grim.

President Morsi's top military general warned him of dire consequences to come if he failed to take steps to address the issues concerning Egyptians but he paid no heed. That elite general is now president himself, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and the formidable problems facing Egypt have only marginally been relaxed. Remaining is the threat to stability posed by the Muslim Brotherhood, again outlawed as a terrorist group in Egypt, and their allies in the Sinai Peninsula, al-Qaeda and Salafist Bedouin, among other Islamist groups in violent conflict with the government.

Egypt's economic situation has not been entirely rectified; the destabilized period of the Arab Spring saw international investment flee the country, along with the staple of the economy, tourism. Egypt's young socialist-veering university students, and those who support them agitating for a more liberal country, press freedom and greater opportunities for youth advancement, along with better employment opportunities that can only come with an enhanced economic situation, continue to agitate for change.

And the Egyptian administration, while putting out fires in the Sinai when Islamist jihadis attack police and military posts, has also been paying attention to the liberals in society who continue to agitate, all the more so that their revolution was clipped out from under them, and now that the old military-style regime has been returned to power, facing the same challenges that the old one did, Egypt has been abducting, imprisoning and holding incommunicado those whom the administration considers political trouble-makers.

People are 'vanished' randomly, no trace of their whereabouts to be found. There have been no formal arrests, simply disappearances, and families are left perplexed and fearfully concerned over the whereabouts of their loved ones. Human rights groups call this "enforced disappearance", deployed as President el-Sisi widens his crackdown on all regime opponents. Tens of thousands of people are said to have been detained, mostly members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Those disappearing within secret detention centers operated by security forces without charge or access to lawyers for weeks, for months are what concerns for the most part, the human rights groups, condemning Egypt. Many of those detainees claim to have been tortured. While release generally takes place within months if those taken are not charged with any crime, there are some who remain missing for longer periods.

Even more grim, a handful turn up in morgues. According to Nasser Amin, a lawyer with the National Council on Human Rights, the prevailing situation is starker than what took place throughout the three-decade rule of President Mubarak. "This is an unprecedented catastrophe for human rights", he has stated. From August to November the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, a Cairo advocacy group, claims that 340 enforced disappearances have taken place of which 11 involved minors.

In June of 2015, a disabled young photojournalist, Esraa El-Taweel, along with several of her colleagues had been abducted to the horror and dismay of her family. For two weeks no one knew where she was until she appeared in a courthouse. She was released from prison in December, not knowing whether she might yet be charged with anything. The 23-year-old said while she was in custody she hadn't been physically mistreated, but she "heard men screaming and crying from torture".

Esraa El-Taweel crying 'El-Tahrir newspaper'

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