Tueday at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars Mona Makram-Ebeid, former member of the Egyptian Parliament, expressed her disappointments, her fears and her hopes for an Egypt that has gone through two revolutions since 2011.
Makram-Ebeid does not see the necessity of labeling the events of June 30 as either a coup or a correction. She continues to call it “popular impeachment.” She believes that the Egyptian people have this right and likened it to the popular impeachment of Nixon. Egyptians had become disillusioned with Morsi. The former president had alienated all parts of society. Many of the protestors that flooded the streets on June 30 were the same people who had voted for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in the previous year’s elections. Disappointment led to frustration and violence. It is not a matter of the army being against the MB, but rather the people against political Islam.
Makram-Ebeid expressed her disappointment in the way the Western media has portrayed Egypt’s second wave of uprisings. By calling Morsi a democratically elected president, the Western media is being biased towards the MB. General Sisi is being portrayed as the new Nasser, when in fact he is popular in Egypt because he prevented collapse into a state of insecurity and civil war. The Western media is using the MB as its only source because of its easy accessibility. This is an inexcusable reason for biased reporting. The Brotherhood is not demonstrating peacefully, as the media has made it out. One-sided reporting is increasing bitterness towards the Western media in Egypt.
There is real hope in the changes in Egyptian society:
- Egyptians are no longer afraid;
- Egyptians have transformed themselves from subjects to citizens and have accepted a much larger participatory role in politics;
- The Egyptian people, 40% illiterate, are more politicized.
There is a new actor in Egyptian politics: “people power.” This is particularly important because people power shapes Arab public opinion, which is now an important geopolitical factor.
She still fears for two important groups in Egypt: Coptic Christians and women. Since June 30, there have been increasing attacks on Christians, their homes and churches. This has been in retaliation for the Coptic pope’s presence at Sisi’s announcement on July 3 that removed Morsi from power. Extremists have been using violence to discourage Copts from political participation. In the Minya governorate, Christians are forced to pay a gizya tax in return for “protection.”
These attacks have been a way for the extremists to provoke foreign intervention on the side of the Copts. But Copts do not want the West to intervene on their behalf. They have relied on their Muslim neighbors instead, which points to the fact that this is not a sectarian issue of Muslims against Christians but Egyptians against extremists. Women’s rights in Egypt had been most at stake during the Morsi regime, when laws allowing female genital mutilation and child brides passed. Sexual harassment has also increased and has been used as a way to terrorize women from political participation.
Markam-Ebeid sees the current period as a chance for Egyptians to fix the constitution as well as apply transitional justice. She sees transitional justice as every citizen having equal rights and rule of law being established in a document similar to the Bill of Rights. In order for the Brotherhood to continue to participate politically, it must accept this. The final decision as to the direction of the country will be with the youth who started the 25 January revolution. They don’t want Egypt to go backwards but rather to establish a constitution that emphasizes civil rights.