What a year! My head is still spinning of this emotional roller coaster called 2011. In January I was in Sudan and we expected a year of big events –big and predictable events that is. On January 9th the referendum on South Sudan’s independence began and all seemed well. When the final results were announced in February even the Sudanese paid little attention. The events after all were not only big, but also utterly unexpected. And yes, January 25 was only the beginning –OK sure, technically it all began in Tunisia, but I hadn’t really paid attention to that. In quick secession we got the Arab spring, a monster earthquake followed by a monster tsunami followed by a nuclear disaster followed by Godzilla –oh wait, the last actually didn’t happen, but considering the previous events it would have been perfectly believable–, the American debt ceiling crisis followed by Occupy Wall Street and the Euro crisis –does anyone really know what EFSF stands for?– followed by governments crumbling left and right. Oh right, and Bin Laden died, and Kim Yong Il –whose name should only be written in serif fonts to make sure people do not mistake it for a Roman numeral– and Steve Jobs.
In the following post I will try to explain what is happening in Egypt right now for those who live abroad. I will try this as even-handed as possible, be as clear as possible and circumvent the usual conspiracy theories. I know that this will not be easy and of course my position as a European with a green/liberal background has an impact on how I analyse things.
I have updated this post a couple of times and I have already added a number of links to most sections to give you an opportunity to read more about the various items I am presenting. In the most recent update I have changed four elements. First, I have broken out a section on the position of the Muslim Brotherhood. I think it is important to analyse their perspective separately because they are so important within society. Second I have tried to eliminate the timeline aspects in the last two sections (what is happening on the square and what is happening politically) and strengthen the analysis. Third, I added a section at the end looking at the most recent events and a section on how this could play out. Fourth, I made some minor updates to other sections (e.g. see in the latter part of sections on elecitons, role of army).
The pictures which I added to this post, I took in Mohammad Mahmoud Street on the Friday before the recent fights broke out, after I visited the large (pre-dominantly Brotherhood and Salafi) demonstration against the supra-constitutional principles. Graffiti has become an important form of Egyptian political expression. Most graffiti is done with stencils, free-hand is still relatively rare. If anyone knows the artists of the pieces, I would be happy to add the info.
Thanks for input for for updates to this post goes to Anja, Dani, Rehab, Mack, Chris and TJ.
What is this post about?
I just spoke with a friend at home and she said that she thinks the situation in Egypt right now “is very sad and that she hopes that the elections will go well, so that the country can finally get some stability.” This is pretty much the same feeling as is expressed by our governments. The Europeans and the American asked for violence to end for elections to proceed. The problem is, by now this might not be the real issue on the ground anymore. The developments however are moving so quickly, that they are hard to keep up with if you are not an ardent follower. Therefore I will try now to summarise some of the most important points and explain some bits and pieces. This post is meant for everyone abroad, if you have questions or find things unclear, please let me know!
Buildings on the Korniche north of Maadi, shot from Dahab Island
Yesterday I attended the blue march in Heliopolis. As part of the global “Moving Plantet” day, which is organized by the cut-carbon NGO 350.org, a group of young Egyptian hit the street to demonstrate for a better environment, less traffic, more public transport and to move away from fossil fuels. It was a surprisingly short march, but it was better attended than I had expected and the Cairo cyclists showed up in good numbers. Nevertheless I walked away unconvinced. I strongly believe that there is space for a green movement in Egypt and Cairo, but I think first the approach must be taken and put upside down.