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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

Report: Egypt on the Brink – Panel Luncheon with Leaders of the Egyptian Opposition

Report: Egypt on the Brink – Panel Luncheon with Leaders of the Egyptian Opposition

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The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) gathered exiled opposition leaders and Washington-based officials, opinion leaders, officials, and community 01members at the Mayflower Hotel in summer 2015 for a frank discussion on the current situation in Egypt and what can be done about it. Dr. Masmoudi welcomed the guests and stated that it was CSID’s intention to give the Egyptian opposition leaders a chance to share their opinions and answer questions about the very serious situation in Egypt. Dr. Amr Darrag–head of the Political Committee of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council, former Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, and former Secretary General of the Egyptian Constituent Assembly drafting the Constitution–stated that Egypt was on the verge of becoming a failed state. General Sisi has failed on his promise to provide security and economic wellbeing and was unable to provide for the basic needs of the people.

Darrag explained that the government survives by fomenting fears of terrorism. However, the government is in part responsible for the creation of that terrorism and the escalation of violence throughout the country. For example, in the Sinai Peninsula since the 2013 coup, 02the Sisi government reversed the holistic approach taken by the previous government and reverted entirely to the use of force, which has led to the alienation of local residents and driven more young Egyptians to join extremists. It is worth noting that the so-called Islamic State announced its presence in the Sinai only this summer, and during the same period terrorist attacks began to spread to other parts of the country. Egypt is now living in a cycle of violent attacks and counterattacks, with tit for tat retaliation by the government and terrorist groups. The international community has done little regarding this dire situation; in fact, quite the opposite. Western governments continue to normalize relations with the Sisi regime even though they acknowledge the terrible human rights situation, condemned by every credible human rights organization inside and outside of Egypt.

Egyptians are refusing to accept the bloody 2013 coup and continue to protest every day. As this struggle continues, the regime has felt the need to escalate the repression, and no one is immune from its wrath. The political space in Egypt gets narrower every day, and more and 03more people are being harassed, attacked, and arrested for attempting to be active politically. There are signs, he added, that the coalition that supported the coup is beginning to fracture. Some figures of the deep state that played an important role in the events leading up to the coup are now criticizing the Sisi and his government. Nonetheless, state oppression is on the rise despite the resilience of the Egyptian people. For example, the regime is trying to send strong messages through collective death sentences–dozens or hundreds of political activists for one alleged murder–and even carrying out some of the death sentences. Darrag concluded by stating that the opposition believes that the situation is going to continue for some time even though they believe that the stability of the regime is illusory. This continuing level of brutality will continue to find resistance from the Egyptian people through peaceful means, and “We insist that our struggle will remain peaceful.”

Egyptian Revolutionary Council President Dr. Maha Azzam elaborated further on the situation in Egypt stating that the military regime is undermining the fabric of society and 04is attempting to re-instill a climate of fear, seemingly “broken” in 2011, to the point that Egyptians do not speak out on politics any more. The military dictator is doing all that with the full force of the armed forces, the media, and the judiciary, which have become increasingly politicized. She said that there is no rule of law in Egypt today. Reputable human rights organizations have reported on hundreds of mass execution verdicts, arbitrary arrests where detainees are held for long periods of time under deplorable conditions and without access to legal representation, large numbers of rape cases against men and women, and the worst massacre in Egypt’s modern history–Rabaa. The military regime had promised a roadmap but broke its promise in every possible way. It held a presidential election in the absence of freedom of assembly and real political choice. The regime has failed to deliver on its promises, yet it continues to receive support from the US and many governments in the West. The US has resumed its military aid and a dictator who has blood on his hands is being welcomed in cities across Europe. Corruption is at the core of the governing elite in Egypt that is not accountable to a parliament or any other system. The level of poverty in Egypt remains extremely high, where more than 40% live on two dollars a day or less. The whole fabric of Egyptian society is on the brink of collapsing under deteriorating health and educational system.

The regime is using language of hate and polarization to justify silencing any voices of dissent. These methods are reminiscent of Eastern Europe in the nineties. The violence we are seeing not only in Sinai but also in other parts of Egypt must be condemned, and we must do everything in our power to prevent it. Relying on dictators to solve the problem of radicalization and violence has been tried before and proven to be counterproductive. Dictators help breed extremism and violence. Furthermore, there is no political space left in Egypt to disseminate modern ideas. Despite of all, this struggle in Egypt is essentially peaceful and will remain peaceful for moral and strategic reasons. However, there are those who are pushed by state violence to radicalization and terrorism, and we must do all we can to reject both. U.S. and European policymakers need to reexamine their support to the military regime in Egypt that is pushing Egypt towards more violence. They should call for the opening of a real political spaces that would allow for the return to a democratic process. The opposition calls for freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and the freedom of all political prisoners.

Dr. Wael Haddara, a professor of medicine in Canada and former senior advisor to President Morsi in 2012-3, stated that the current military regime in Egypt relies on four 05elements to support its existence. First, it relies on massive repression with the objective of shutting down any threat. This has extended lately to institutional actors in the army and the old guard from the Mubarak era. Second, it relies on developing and promoting a personality cult around Sisi. Now that Sisi is talking more, he has emerged as megalomaniac who has the solution to every problem in hand with his “supreme” leadership qualities. Sisi is using traditional media to communicate this personality, even though the young generation uses different ways to communicate. Third, the regime relies on the illusion of economic growth. Fourth, it relies on cultivating respectability with the international community. The emphasis at first was on the first two elements, until the latter two can be realized, so they become the main two elements of stabilizing to the regime. Speaking to younger Egyptians, Haddara lamented that the lesson they derive from the way Sisi is being received by the U.S. and the West is that the violence is acceptable as long as it is used effectively. That is a terrible lesson for the future generation to learn, instead of learning the value of peaceful and democratic change.

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