The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged counter-revolution
The counter-revolution and women

The ugliness and ridiculousness of the army and their defenders' arguments this week has been hard to countenance. 

Much of the debate has centered on the shocking image of the young woman dragged, half undressed and mercilessly beaten in the street by soldiers. The denial, misogyny and hostility on display has been in direct proportion to the impossibility of defending this conduct. 

A sheikh with the Gamaa Islamiya exemplified the worst of Islamist bigotry and hypocrisy by telling Al Ahram a few days ago that "real Egyptian men don't follow April 6 women into the street" and if people are concerned for women's honor they should worry about girls sleeping overnight in tents with boys and dancing.

The focus on women -- their safety, their "honor," their participation -- has brought out the worst in the counter-revolutionaries. In the pro-army Abbasiya protest yesterday, people chanted: "From the ladies of Egypt to Ghada.." -- addressing this brave young woman, beaten by the army -- "Your end will be annihilation." They also reiterated the perversely common argument that the woman in the blue bra entrapped soldiers into beating and stripping her in the street. The event was headlined by Tawfeeq Okasha, a weird populist TV station owner (and former Mubarak supporter) who judging by this video -- in which he creepily tells activists Nawara Negm and Asmaa Mahfouz that he has guys all ready and lined up to marry them and teach them to calm down and love their country -- is a raving psychopath and misogynist. Just for good measure, the Abbaseya demo also reportedly featured posters of popular private TV channel presenters Mona Shazly, Reem Maged and others with nooses around their necks. 

The loons in Abbaseya are an extreme end of popular opinion (albeit one that is being dangerously encouraged). Many other Egyptians are shamed, shocked and scared by the army's violence towards citizens, and (although I think by now almost everyone knows that something terrible happened Downtown last week) would prefer to believe that it didn't happen -- or that those it happened to somehow deserved it. Egypt is still fighting the same battle, a year on: a battle over whether all its citizens deserve safety and dignity and whether those who are in power can be held accountable. The denial and incoherent rage being directed at protesters -- and at those women who, according to these arguments, chose to embarrass themselves and their country by getting themselves nearly killed in the street by soldiers -- shows how difficult and threatening this kind of change will be. 

More on the counter-revolution

This is going to be a bleak post, taking stock of some of the worrying developments of the last week:

- The re-invocation of Emergency Law, plus redundant, extra-repressive bells and whistles (see Issandr's post) clearly aimed at anybody (the media, unions, NGOs) who might be thinking about challenging the SCAF

- The crack-down on Al Jazeera's live Egypt channel and the general intimidation of the media 

- Rumours that the SCAF will appoint members of the constitutional assembly (rather than have parliament select them), going back on the agreed-to process sanctioned by last March's referendum -- and a dawning realization that presidential elections may not take place till mid-2012

- A judicial and political transition process that remains deeply (deliberately?) muddled, with almost all political parties criticizing the (as yet to be finalized) new electoral law, the new districting plan, the lack of a clear time-table -- to little avail. 

- A security apparatus that remains resistant to all change -- except for a name change -- and incapable of facing the country's quite real crime wave

- An opposition and protest movement that is more fragmented than ever, still stuck playing Tahrir politics 

Of course the activists who have been skeptical of the army from day one will say: Why are you surprised?

It's not that here at Arabist we haven't seen the counter-revolution coming all along; but I for one had hoped that it would be more greatly constrained, by international pressure and above all by domestic expectations and public opinion. As is, the most "deafening silence" these days is that of the many Egyptians, who -- presented with the stale old choice between "stability" and "chaos" -- seem to have decided that the generals need an even free-er hand to put the house in order. 

Seven months after Mubarak was forced out of power, Egypt is being run by an authoritarian, unelected and unaccountable executive that resorts to the same tired security logic and the same insidious allegations of foreign manipulation and -- perhaps most disturbingly of all -- has created a greater layer fear and denial around any critical discussion of its actions than the late Mubarak regime had. 

Add to that an American administration that would rather find its accommodation with the status quo than support risky but real democratization; a civil society on the defensive; and political groups who are continue making demands and offering advice to the SCAF that it routinely ignores.

This is not to say that I don't still have faith and hope in Egyptians' desire for change or ability to rally. But let's just say we're at a low point. The only wild card at the moment is the threatening storm of labour unrest, withstudentsdoctors and teachers all initiating or planning major strikes.