The historical presidential election aftermath in Iran, last year, which marked a nationwide protest against the theological regime of Islamist clerics was an inspiration to the young nonviolent activists all over the Middle East and the world. Egyptian young people are currently using the same Internet technology tools, used previously by Iranian activists, to spread the word about the fast and furious developments happening inside Egypt in this critical phase of democratic change and civil resistance. Apparently, the Iranian regime’s excessive use of violence against protesters inspired the Egyptian oppressors, too.
Egypt is heading into a very critical phase of its modern history. By the end of this year, we will have parliamentary elections, which should pave the way to the presidential elections that will happen next year. In other words, the members who will control the new parliament will play a key role in deciding whether the 29-year-old regime of Mubarak, 81, would continue – either through reelecting Mubarak or his son Gamal – or new blood will be poured into Egyptian political veins by electing a new president from among opposition.
In less than two weeks, Egyptian people from different backgrounds (Islamists, Liberals, Nasserists, students, women, and labors) joined demonstrations and rallies in downtown Cairo and at university campuses in different governorates to call for the change of the constitution, the end of Emergency Law, and more political freedoms. It all started with the April 6 demonstrations in Tahrir Square, downtown Cairo, last week, which was then followed by smaller gatherings in university campuses in different governorates all over Egypt and ended with a ground-breaking demonstration Tuesday outside the Supreme House of Judiciary, downtown Cairo.
The most notable remark of those civil activities was the excessive use of violence and cruel reaction of security forces. Thanks to the continuous pressure, the Egyptian civil movement has already won a space for free protesting during the past few years. However, it seems that the security forces are trying to take this space back out of fear of encouraging ordinary citizens to speak out in a way that may threaten the safety of the current regime.
In the April 6 demonstrations, a lot of violations were reported. More than 90 young people were arrested. Tens were severely beaten and assaulted by plainclothes security agents. They even hired policewomen to beat female protesters and arrest them. Young activists were severely assaulted and ran home with broken arms and bloody wounds. The young protesters were shocked by the exaggerated violent reaction of security forces to their nonviolent protest.
A couple of days later, in Menoufia University, a group of students who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood group tried to hold their annual celebration, which includes songs and stand-up comedy and calls for ending the use of the Emergency Law. The reaction of the security forces and the university administration was horrible. They prevented the students from holding the celebration by beating them with wooden sticks and iron electric batons inside the university campus. Policemen in uniform aided by soldiers in plainclothes stormed the university and attacked the young, helpless, students in a clear violation of the sanctity of the university campus and their civil rights as citizens and students.
On Tuesday, in the demonstration led by the liberals and Nasserist opposition leaders, the cruelty of the security forces turned the people mad and pushed them to reply with violence. Reportedly, people tried more than once to break the iron barriers, which security forces used to cordon the protesters into a very tiny space outside the Supreme House of Judiciary. Two activists were beaten unconscious before people respond back by beating soldiers and pulling off their helmets.
A few got arrested and then released. The purpose of Tuesday’s gathering, which according to eyewitnesses “turned into a massacre,” was to file a claim to the Public Prosecutor asking him to investigate the security force’s violent response to peaceful activists in the April 6 demonstration.
Add to this the unjustified blocking of Egyptian opposition websites in some Arab countries and the deportation of Egyptians working in Arab countries because of their political beliefs, which are critical of the current regime.
The international community did not move a muscle in response. It seems that the angry response of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the US State Department’s statement of being “concerned” about the crackdown on civil activists scared them away. Why do not they use their good relationship with their friend and ally Mubarak to pressure him to interfere to end suppressing activists and support democracy? Are they waiting for until we become another Iran: activists shot dead and dissidents executed.
I still remember Obama’s inspiring words from his famous Cairo Speech about the US supporting human rights activists against dictatorships. Right now, from the middle of the chaos, I am not sure if they were only blatant words of an eloquent speaker or a true conviction of a pro-democracy activist.