The Arab Spring’s bottom line

 
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By Khaled Diab

The Arab uprisings are not just about democracy and dignity. But with domestic and global economic crises, how likely are they to deliver on bread and butter issues?

Tuesday 16 August 2011

The ideals of the ‘Arab Spring’ or have largely been dominated by the high, yet somewhat abstract, demands for liberté and égalité. This ‘Arab Awakening’ has been portrayed as an epic battle pitting the enlightened forces of democracy and dignity against the dark powers of dictatorship and despotism.

Based on this vision, the revolutionary discourse within the Arab world – and public debate beyond it – has mostly focused on making the political process more open and transparent, as well as applying the rule of law fairly and equally. 

While these issues are of critical importance to the future of the region, since they will help ensure that the poor or marginalised are not trampled on by the rich or powerful, and protect minorities from sometimes hostile majorities, the picture is missing a vital element: fraternité

You can have all the democracy and personal freedoms in the world, but without addressing the bread and butter issues of poverty and economic injustice, reform will be incomplete and hollow, as a number of mature Western democracies shaken by recent unrest are learning.

In fact, although the uprisings are regularly viewed as something uniquely Arab and separate from the rest of the world, I see them as part and parcel of a global backlash against growing inequalities and the increasing economic marginalisation of the young. In fact, the Arab world and Europe share surprising similar youth unemployment rates (around 20% and 25% respectively). 

That would explain why, a couple of years before young Tunisians and Egyptians took to the streets, their Greek peers across the Mediterranean were out in force protesting not only against police brutality but growing youth unemployment (which stands at over 40%). Despite the ugly and selfish scenes of looting and theft that have accompanied the UK riots, one important factor behind them is the economic and social marginalisation of young people – who are raised in a society of ‘born consumers’ yet too often deprived of their birthright.

This raises the question of why, given the obvious importance of economic justice and the strong presence of labour movements and unions in the protests, issues of job creation, wealth generation and economic solidarity have been left to fester by the wayside? 

In Tunisia, for example, the pace of reform has been incredibly sluggish, with little beyond a cash handout scheme appearing since the revolution. “There hasn’t been enough provided or offered,” one Tunisian economics professor complained. “The few programmes that came were late or insufficient.” 

This is doubly ironic when considering that in Egypt and Tunisia trade unions and workers were a vital driving force behind the protests, holding regular strikes and sit-ins. Even the 6 April youth movement, which called for the first protest of the Egyptian revolution on 25 January, was originally set up to express solidarity with textile workers.

One reason is the nature of the popular uprisings themselves. In Tunisia and Egypt, in order to topple the old order, they needed to appeal to all strata of society – young and old, rich and poor, socialist and conservative. To do this, they focused on the lowest common denominator: regime change, the creation of a level political playing field and the protection of human rights. 

But there has been no consensus about how to proceed on other pressing issues, and the once-united opposition has splintered into political factions. In addition, in Egypt, many of the revolution’s leaders, though young, come from educated and relatively privileged middle or upper-middle-class backgrounds, and so few were likely to seriously challenge the country’s underlying economic structure, despite its harsh inequalities. 

Moreover, the surviving elements of the political elite that have been leading the country in the interim have been working hard to ensure that as much of the old system remains intact as possible. Towards that end, Egypt’s supreme council for the armed forces has skewed the post-revolutionary political system, at least in the short term, away from the young and radical and towards more conservative opposition forces. 

This is epitomised by the electoral pact between the liberal al-Wafd and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice parties, which numerous analysts say is likely to emerge as the largest bloc in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Although the two parties are bitterly divided over questions of secularism versus religion, which threaten their alliance, they have remarkably similar neo-liberal economic agendas. 

Another factor might be termed the “death of political ideology”. In Arab countries, as in many other parts of the world, neither past socialism nor current neo-liberalism have delivered satisfactory results: one brought a relative equality of poverty while the other reaped a massive inequality of wealth. 

In fact, the Egyptian and Tunisian economies have not been doing at all badly in recent years, yet the fruits have only gone to a small minority with the rest of society excluded from the rewards. And with the high price tag attached to the recent domestic upheavals and global economic fragility, fuelled by the debt crises in the United States and Europe, the economic cake is unlikely to grow much but though the demands on it are likely to do so. 

One part of the solution is to foster entrepreneurship and innovation. But that alone will not bridge the gaping economic chasm. Egypt and Tunisia need to build (and in some cases rebuild) their welfare and solidarity infrastructures.

In Egypt, for example, the interim government has taken some steps in the right direction. The budget for the fiscal year that started in July sets a new government sector minimum wage at LE 700 (£72) per month, which though modest and insufficient will nonetheless boost the incomes of several million people. 

In order to finance such measures, the government is depending partly on foreign donors but also on the gradual introduction of progressive taxation, as well as indirect taxes. In fact, in a country where tax evasion has long been a problem, Egyptian tax revenues have actually risen by 16% – perhaps a sign of a greater sense of ownership of the political process and solidarity.

Still, the tax burden on the wealthier strata of society remains minuscule in comparison with the egalitarian social democracies of northern Europe and, if the Arab democratic spring is not to turn into a winter of economic discontent, then the haves need to do more to empower the have-nots.

 

This article first appeared in the Comment is Free section of The Guardian on 12 August 2011. Discussion of this article is available here.

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From political revolution to social evolution

 
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By Khaled Diab

To truly succeed, Egypt’s revolution needs to trigger a profound evolution in every strata of society.

Thursday 17 February 2011

Revolutions are things that happen elsewhere. But despite all the talk of Egyptians being too apathetic, docile, cynical or sceptical, or all these combined, here, too, there be a revolution.

And what a revolution it is proving to be. It is almost as though history has woken up, realised it had forsaken Egypt for too long and decided to move it from slow motion to fast-forward by packing a century’s worth of events into a few short days.

Though I had expected a standoff between the various opposition groups and the Mubarak regime this year because of the presidential elections, I never in my wildest dreams anticipated anything on this epic and almost universal scale.

For millions of Egyptians, including myself, 25 January marked a watershed moment in our collective identity, and the ride since that fateful day has been an emotional rollercoaster, with elation and pride at the courage and dedication of the protesters; admiration of their solidarity, creativity and goodwill; disgust and despair at the tactics of the regime; and hope and nervousness about the future.

The drama tells a tale of two Egypts. On the one side, there are the protesters, overflowing with vibrancy, irresistible energy, inventiveness and, above all, egalitarianism. On the other side, the dinosaurs of Egypt’s Jurassic age stumble around and lash out wildly following the crash of the meteorite that is destroying their world. And the dinosaur-in-chief himself has left the building in what was perhaps the most beautiful moment that any Egyptian alive today could remember. 

While debate in Egypt has focused on post-Mubarak politics and, in the outside world, on fears of an Islamist takeover and what the uprising will mean for western interests and relations with Israel, the question of post-revolutionary social change has been forgotten in the stampede.

In the early days of the revolution, I wrote that, though Egyptians look likely to throw off Hosni Mubarak’s repressive rule and, hopefully, replace it with a democracy, this would not mark the end of authoritarianism in Egypt, unless they dealt with the million mini-Mubaraks – in politics, in the home, in academia, in business – holding the country back.

So, what are the chances that the Egyptian revolution will spark a positive social evolution? Well, there are some promising signs in Egyptians’ obstinate refusal to compromise on their demands, their willingness to speak their minds and their refusal to cower in front of authority. “People in Egypt have changed quite a bit: they now know that they are willing and able to take matters into their own hands,” says and Egyptian friend, Nicholas Accad.

This is epitomised in what some protesters have jokingly been calling the “Free Republic of Tahrir”. Karim Medhat Ennarah, a young protester who was on the square since the very first days, describes it as a “little utopia”.

“The social problems that have plagued Egypt for years seem to have dissolved,” he said of the mood among protesters. “Class distinctions have faded, religious and social tensions have disappeared. There is virtually no sexual harassment. No one feels superior to anyone else, and no one feels disenfranchised.”

But the relative mayhem and anarchy unleashed by Mubarak’s supporters and thugs, though it elicited a renewed sense of civic duty and solidarity among many, also shed a stark light on the harsh class divisions within Egyptian society. “Egypt does not just have one dictator, but many little dictators whom you can see every day on the streets, such as the vigilantes who were thoroughly enjoying the new task assigned to them by the absence of police: terrorising Egyptian citizens who dare to waltz into their neighbourhoods, especially the more affluent ones,” Karim observed.

Other Egyptians I have spoken to are divided in their opinion as to how far-reaching the Egyptian revolution will prove socio-economically. During a long phone conversation with one friend, we were both doubtful that a democratic Egypt, though it may improve the lot of the poor, would manage to narrow, in any significant sense, the wide chasm between the haves and the have-nots, as demonstrated by how the army and many better-off protesters have been calling on strikers to go back to work.

This will especially be the case since it looks like there’ll be tough economic times ahead – especially if Egypt is punished economically for its democratic choice by the dictatorship of the global markets – and there’s been little talk of heavier taxation, fair minimum wages and other re-distributive measures.

It also remains to be seen whether Egyptians will be able to create a better meritocracy, weed out the corruption that has set in like rot, and overcome the culture of ‘wasta’.“Egyptians will be the same. Changing governments won’t change mentalities,” says Ahmed Dessouki, sounding a note of caution and pessimism. “We should change from head to toe. The revolution was a good start, but we shouldn’t forget ourselves.”

But for many, the most significant change in Egypt has been a revolution of the mind, a discovery of the possible. “The revolution has already changed many Egyptians,” believes Noura Elhawary. “I don’t think the Egyptians who participated in the protests will accept to be humiliated by anyone after that, or not ask for their rights after that.”

Events in Egypt have also triggered a major change in outlook among Arabs in general. “Something changed in all of us, I believe. It has shown us that we are not mere extras in a script,” says Khaled Dabbagh, a Palestinian. “May the revolution not only survive but continue.”

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The death throes of Arab dictatorships

 
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By Khaled Diab

Will the unfolding popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt lead to the region’s dictators falling one after the other like dominos?

Thursday 3 February 2011

For me as an Egyptian, watching the dramatic events of recent days unfold has been inspiring, moving and worrying all at the same time. Despite usually being a cool-headed journalistic observer, I have found myself fighting back tears of joy and pride on numerous occasions.

For a country whose political life usually limps forward (and quite often backward), the drama of recent days has throttled along like a high-speed political drama. The old adage that a week is a long time in politics has been fast-forwarded in Egypt, and every hour, even every minute, brings new developments with it.

Ever since the Tunisian uprising broke out and especially since the downfall of its president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the question on everyone’s lips has been whether people in Egypt, the largest and most central Arab country, and other states in the region would follow the Tunisian example. Of course, I and some other observers were expecting matters to come to a head this year, because of the mounting opposition to President Hosni Mubarak’s (read profile) rule as we approach the presidential elections, slated for the autumn of 2011, but no on expected, even in their wildest dreams, anything approaching the mass protests that have shaken the country in recent days.

Even a fortnight ago, it seemed uncertain as to whether Egypt would actually catch the Tunisian bug and, through it, cure itself of the Mubarak virus. After all, for most of the past decade, Egyptian political and trades union activists, and other civil society actors, had been campaigning and agitating for change. They even created a broad-based umbrella movement which united all of Egypt’s opposition forces – progressive, conservative, leftist, Nasserist and Islamist – towards the common goal of bringing to an end the Mubarak regime under the simple banner ‘Kefaya’ (‘Enough’). But Kefaya was clearly not enough to mobilise ordinary Egyptians, who seemed to be weighed down by the heavy chains of disillusionment, apathy and fear.

Disappointed at the mainstream opposition’s inability to create new momentum, Egypt’s young people, long sidelined and undervalued, decided to take matters into their own hands and created, in 2008, the 6 April Youth Movement, originally to call, through social networking technologies, for a general strike in solidarity with strikers in Mahallah el-Kubra, Egypt’s main textile production centre. Although the movement’s success had been limited, this all changed on Tuesday 25 January 2011, Egypt’s Police Day (a day of celebration for the regime, not the people), when it called on Egyptians to take to the street in a “day of anger”. Spurred on and emboldened by the sweet success of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, Egyptians took to the streets in untold thousands across the country.

The “Friday of anger”, on 28 January, delivered a fatal blow to the regime and most expect it to be the final nail in the coffin of the presidency. At the time of writing, Mubarak continues to cling on to power desperately and delusionally, playing out a perverse and surreal pantomime in which he dissolved the government and appointed a vice president (for the first time) and a new prime minister, both members of the old guard.

Regardless of what tricks the no-longer-president tries to pull off, most Egyptians demand and expect his ouster. But how many more Egyptians Mubarak is willing to sacrifice at the altar of his ego, in addition to the many scores of dead and injured already, remains an open question. Another crucial question is whose side the army will ultimately choose: the people’s, the defunct regime’s or perhaps simply its own.

Every passing moment increases the risks to Egyptians, in terms of their safety as relative anarchy breaks out following the disappearance of Egypt’s beloathed police force – which impromptu neighbourhood protection committees are trying to combat – and their economic well-being, as the financial and tourism markets take a battering. Tourists have fled the country, the stock market fell by around 6% for two days running before trading was suspended, while regional and global markets are growing jittery at the unrest, and the exchange rate of the Egyptian pound against the dollar is at its lowest in six years.

But what or who will replace the fallen regimes in Egypt and Tunisia? In many parts of Europe and the United States, there has been a longstanding fear, exploited by Mubarak and other dictators, that when presented with democratic choice, Arabs would vote in Islamists who would then strip citizens of their democratic rights – in a sort of “one citizen, one vote, one time” – and turn their countries against the West.

For that reason, many argue that pragmatism and realpolitik call for the propping up of friendly dictators – a very distasteful notion, indeed, especially as the United States dithers over whether or not to withdraw its support from Mubarak.

In the two ongoing revolutions, the fears of an Islamist takeover appear to be unfounded, especially in Tunisia, probably the most secular country in the region, where the protests began out of sympathy with the suicide of a young street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who burned himself alive after his wares were confiscated by police, in an echo of the actions of Czech student Jan Palach, who also set himself on fire in 1969 to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia which aimed to crush the liberalising reforms of Alexander Dubček.

Since then, Tunisians of all ages and backgrounds have been out on the streets in force, chanting for democracy and freedom, not for Islam or Shari’a. “This Muslim fundamentalist thing in North Africa is a scarecrow,” insisted one Tunisian protester. In addition, women, modern, courageous, outspoken have been clearly visible among the crowds in a country where gender equality has gone furthest in the Arab world.

Nevertheless, the fears are still being voiced, as I’ve personally experienced in the number of times I’ve been asked by journalists and ordinary people about the possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood would seize power in Egypt.

While recognising that nothing is beyond the bounds of possibility, I highly doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood will succeed, in a post-Mubarak democratic Egypt, of gaining complete control of the country through an Islamic counterrevolution, in an Arab version of Iran’s “Islamic revolution”, even if Iran itself drew parallels between 1979 and current events in Egypt and, rather cheekily considering its own crushing of mass protests in 2009, called on the Egyptian regime to submit to protesters’ demands.

However, there is a world of difference between Iran in 1979 and Egypt in 2011. For one, the Egyptian Sunni clergy are not politicised and are not held in the same kind of awe as their Shi’a counterpart. Iran had the charismatic and “holy” cult figure Ayatollah Khomeini, while the Muslim Brotherhood is largely made up of conservative and rather grey professionals in suits, i.e. doctors, lawyers and engineers.

Significantly, the party missed the boat in this revolution by refusing to take part in the protests or back them until it appeared that they were unstoppable. The movement’s top brass, under the conservative and cautious leadership of Mohammed Badie, have proven themselves not only to be out of touch with the popular mood, but also with the younger, more open-minded generation within their own ranks.

In addition, one factor behind the Muslim Brotherhood’s apparent success and popularity, with the movement often described as Egypt’s largest opposition party, is the fact that they were kind of the “last man left standing” after the secular opposition was purged, starting in the 1970s under former president Anwar el-Sadat who also backed the Islamist current as a counterbalance to his powerful secular opponents. Moreover, no matter how oppressive the regime became, it could not shut down mosques, natural meeting points for Islamists, without provoking public opprobrium.

But now, with freedom beckoning and plurality around the corner, the Brotherhood can no longer play the dual role of being both the last protest party for the disenfranchised and the demon used by the regime to scare the outside world. In fact, with the emergence of democracy, the Brotherhood would only be one of Egypt’s many political and social movements, albeit a fairly influential one, perhaps even a sort of “Muslim Democratic” party.

So, can this popular revolution spread beyond Tunisia and Egypt?

History would suggest that popular uprisings have a tendency to spark a chain reaction in countries with similar conditions, as occurred in Europe in the 1848 “Springtime of the Peoples” and the 1989 “Autumn of Nations”. Since the Middle East is not short of dictatorships, we could well see a domino effect, though I hope it will be more successful than 1848 and not result in oligarchial rule as occurred in so many places post-1989.

A number of countries are already experiencing unrest and there have been suggestions that they could be next in line. These include Yemen, Jordan and Algeria. Events in Egypt often resonate in Yemen. For instance, inspired by the Egyptian revolution, or coup d’etat, of 1952, revolutionary forces took over North Yemen, creating the Yemen Arab Republic. Although Yemeni tensions and disaffection have been high for some time, protesters are only now explicitly calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power even longer than Mubarak, but Yemenis may have trouble mobilising to the same degree as Egyptians and Tunisians.

Although anger and resentment is greater than in Egypt, “civil society is weaker here and the culture of popular opposition is far less here”, observes Aidroos Al Naqeeb, who heads the socialist party bloc in the Yemeni parliament. In addition, Yemeni society, which is largely tribal, has a weaker sense of national identity and is more fragile than Egypt and Tunisia, with growing secessionist pressure in South Yemen, not to mention the Shia’a or “Houthi” insurgency in the northwest of the country.

Jordan has also experienced protests to demand political and economic reforms. “Jordanians are all for the revolution in Egypt and are cheering for change there,” a Jordanian journalist told me. “Those amongst them who talk about change in Jordan, mainly talk about reforms but not changing the regime.”

This is partly due to the awe, respect, fear and love in which the monarchy is held, the journalist notes, which would explain why Jordanians are calling for the resignation of the government, even though it was appointed by the king who, in any case, is the one who holds executive authority. With that kind of deference to the monarchy, the tensions between indigenous Jordanians (East Bankers) and Jordanians of Palestinian descent, and how much Jordanians value the stability they enjoy in a dangerous and volatile neighbourhood, Jordan is unlikely to be next in line for popular revolution, but could push harder for gradual evolution.

How far popular uprisings and revolutions spread in the Middle East and what their long-term consequences will be is impossible to predict. But one thing is for certain, after decades of stagnation, the region will never be quite the same and we may finally see the dawning of true independence in which local peoples have shaken off not only foreign rule but domestic despotism.

This article appeared in Ukrainian Week on 3 February 2011.

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Egypt Hires PR firm to revamp its image

 
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 By Osama Diab

A picture is worth a thousand words, but a doctored picture is a scandal that can be worth a thousand articles to cover.

Saturday 6 November 2010

A few weeks ago, the state-run al-Ahram newspaper was severely slammed by local and international media for falsely suggesting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was leading the peace talks by faking a picture taken during the peace talks between Israel and Palestine in Washington.

In its quest to improve its image, Egypt’s government is doing more than just moving President Mubarak around pictures. The government recently hired the major U.K. public relations firm Bell Pottinger to better deliver its message to an international audience.

The decision to seek PR help is due to the government’s discontent over the way Egypt’s regime is portrayed in Western media. Abdel Moneim Saeid, al-Ahram’s chairman, pointed his finger at everyone except himself, his publication and the regime he represents in a statement about the media’s reaction to the doctored picture. He explained that the attack on al-Ahram was partly due to the West’s thirst for sensation.

Saeid should know that what he thinks is an overreaction to an altered photo is in fact a frustration over a newspaper that’s been defending a regime many perceive as lacking legitimacy. The incident was first discovered by Egyptian blogger Wael Khalil and was mainly mocked by Egyptians and Egyptian newspapers, not the Western media. But it seems like the regime cares more about its image beyond its borders than at home.

This attack on al-Ahram is not only due to the West’s thirst for sensation; the condition of human rights in Egypt has deteriorated in the past few years. According to Heba Morayef, a Human Rights Watch researcher on Egypt and Libya, there has been an increase in the number of arrests of dissidents, crackdown on peaceful demonstrations, and an increase in the number of arrests due to religious beliefs. “The Egyptian government knows that the world will be closely watching Egypt at this time and also that there will be a lot of human rights violations in this election year,” Morayef said.

A Bell Pottinger representative denied that the hiring has anything to do with polishing up the regime ahead of the 2011 presidential elections where many expect Gamal Mubarak to “inherit” power from his father. She explained to me through an email correspondence that they have been appointed by the government of Egypt to review the ways in which the government communicates with the international media and to advise on how to get the government’s messages better understood internationally.

“Like many other countries, Egypt faces some serious problems, but the government has made real progress in recent years in introducing political and economic reforms and has many achievements to its credit, which have not always been properly communicated to the world at large,” says the Bell Pottinger representative.
Egypt is also publicly a client in a few other lobbying firms in Washington. The Livingston group lists Egypt as a client on their website. Livingston was also hired by Libya to improve Libyan President Muammar al-Qadhafi’s image in Washington before they ended their contract with Libya on the eve of al-Qadhafi’s visit to Washington.

Other than Egypt and Libya, other presidents who are also rumored to have plans to inherit power to their sons seek PR help from Western agencies. Equatorial Guinea, an oil-rich country known for very high levels of corruption and a hard-hearted dictatorship, sought the help of the Washington-based Cassidy & Associates for $120,000 per month to re-brand the West African country as a new democracy. The PR efforts seemed to pay off when the president of the West African state was called a good friend by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on his first visit to the United States two years after they hired Cassidy & Associates. Equatorial Guinea is ranked 168 out of 180 countries in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.

President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe also signed a $400,000 contract with a Canadian publicist Ari Ben-Menashe to again fix his regime’s hurt image abroad.

It is clear why some authoritarian regimes use different ways to support their image rather than achieving real progress on the ground. Presidents in their 70s and 80s who have been in power for three or four decades know democracy and fair elections would probably put their rule at risk. Cosmetic changes are easier than legitimate political reforms.

Instead of Egyptians’ tax money going to hospitals, roads and schools, it goes to building huge state security apparatuses to thwart any attempt for change, funding media outlets that are becoming increasingly unpopular, and to PR and lobbying firms to convince the West that some progress is actually happening.

 This article was first published on Worldpress.org on 21 October 2010. Republished here with the author’s permission. ©Osama Diab.

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Criminal injustice in Egypt

 
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By Khaled Diab

Egyptian police and a decades-old emergency law stand in the dock of public opinion following a young man’s alleged murder.

6 July 2010

The ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots looked like the makeover from hell. Before, we have a clean-cut young man who appears to be rather reserved and perhaps even somewhat shy. After, his once-youthful and pleasant face looks up with dead eyes, disfigured beyond recognition. It looks like it has caved in on itself, particularly around the mouth and jaw.

The cause of his death? It depends on whose side of the story you believe. According to eye-witnesses and Khaled Said’s family, the 28-year-old Alexandrian was dragged out of an internet cafe and brutally beaten to death.

According to the official story, as outlined in two coroner’s reports, he died of asphyxiation caused by his attempt to swallow a packet of ‘bungo’ (a form of marijuana), presumably out of fear of being caught in possession. The post-mortem did concede that the young man had injuries resulting from a “collision with solid objects”, but claimed that these had not led to his death.

With public distrust of the police almost universal, the Egyptian public – not to mention human rights groups – are highly sceptical of the investigation’s findings. Why? Well, the evidence doesn’t really add up and the government has got form when it comes to covering up police brutality, which human rights groups say is “systematic” and “endemic”.

Many see this as a blatant attempt to posthumously tarnish the good name of a law-abiding young man – who was also reportedly apolitical – to mask the ugly handiwork of the regime’s iron fist.

But if Said was not a political activist nor a criminal, why was he attacked by police in the first place?

The original theory doing the rounds was that he had objected to a heavy-handed police raid of the internet cafe and this provoked the fragile egos of the two plain-clothed officers. His family allege that this was retribution for his posting online of a video, which appears to show police officers dividing up the spoils of a drugs haul.

Since the dead can’t protest, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have refused to be cowed or intimidated into silence and have taken up Said’s cause. A Facebook campaign set up to keep his memory alive and to seek justice for the young “martyr” has attracted nearly a quarter of a million members in Arabic and 25,000 in English.

And, unlike some earlier campaigns that did not venture far beyond cyberspace, this one has spilled out onto the Egyptian streets. In addition to the hundreds who attended Said’s funeral, “flash mobs” have organised a number of successful protests. One of the most poignant was when thousands of people stood in a long chain along Alexandria’s seafront – spaced five metres apart, in part to get around Egypt’s draconian emergency law, which bans mass public assemblies – and stood silently or read their Qur’ans and Bibles.

In fact, silence has been the by-word. As one Egyptian commented on Facebook: “If speaking up only brings more violence, then silence will have to articulate our grief.”

Last Friday, large protests took place in a number of major Egyptian cities, with opposition figurehead and the main challenger to President Hosni Mubarak in next year’s elections, Mohamed ElBaradei, the former IAEA chief, joining the Alexandria sit-in.

Despite this concerted show of public anger, the two officers allegedly behind Said’s death remain on active duty.

“The nation is on the verge of social explosion, and amid all this, you’d expect the regime to act very cautiously regarding issues of political freedom and human rights to contain public anger, but they are just doing the exact opposite,” my brother, Osama, tells me in disbelief. “It feels bad to be ruled by authoritarianism, but it feels even worse to be ruled by stupid authoritarianism that is unable to think before it acts.”

Although Said’s death is a huge tragedy for his family, if it helps to ram the final nail in the coffin of Egypt’s emergency law, then this tragedy will not have been in vain. Three decades old, this draconian legislation has hung over the heads of Said’s generation their entire lives and has effectively transformed Egypt into a police state.

The unconstitutional emergency law, which activists have been trying to reverse and repeal for years, grants the police and security services so much discretionary power that it has led to torture and even murder, with few perpetrators brought to justice. The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights documented 46 torture cases and 17 cases of death between June 2008 to February 2009 alone.

“Under the state of emergency, the power of security forces has become absolute. It has become a hegemonic force in the country, even judicially,” says Bahey Eddin Hassan, general director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. “Without a real balance of power, you do not have the rule of law and judicial independence. Without real balance, you lose the voice of the people.”

This column appeared in the Guardian newspaper’s Comment is Free section on 12 May 2010. Read the full discussion here.

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Death of a president

 
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By Khaled Diab

If exaggerated rumours of President Mubarak’s death become fact, where will the end of his one-man show leave Egypt?

25 March 2010

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak has appeared on state television in a bid to lay to rest premature rumours of his death. The Egyptian leader is currently in Germany recovering from surgery on his gall bladder.

Since news broke of his “routine” surgery on 6 March, Egypt has been filled with speculation about the real state of Mubarak’s health and, with reports that a benign tumour was also removed, there have even been wild rumours that the president is actually dead and that the government has been covering this up to buy time.

Against this backdrop of uncertainty, the Egyptian stock exchange lost around 5% but the latest footage has brought calm to the jittery market.

While the death of a president would be disruptive in any country, in Egypt it carries a special significance because Mubarak has been the only show in town for the past three decades and the ageing and ailing dictator has no clear successor.

At nearly 82 years of age, Baba Mubarak, as he is mockingly known, is certainly no spring chicken and could die at any moment. With such a realistic prospect on the horizon, many Egyptians are rightly apprehensive about what would happen if the president suddenly passed away before next year’s presidential elections.

In Egypt, the state of the president’s health has long been something of a taboo, with journalists running the risk of arrest for broaching the topic, and so this newfound openness is actually arousing suspicion in some people’s minds.

“The fact that they are releasing news about Mubarak’s health is an improvement,” Kholoud Khalifa, a young Egyptian journalist, said. “One reason for this is that Mubarak has now fully groomed his son, Gamal, for the top job,” she speculates.

So, what would happen if the president were suddenly to breathe his last?

While many Egyptians are hopeful for change, as I highlighted in a recent article, they do not realistically expect the dawn of democracy – at least, not full democracy – once Mubarak is out of the way.

“We are not a revolutionary people. Anything that can be counted as revolutionary change in this country is almost invariably brought about by a small minority,” my friend Ahmed opined over dinner in a Cairo restaurant.

Many reform-minded Egyptians disagree with this received wisdom. “The regime has so suppressed opposition and ingrained apathy in the masses that people no longer believe they can change anything,” assesses Khalifa.

Based on conversations with numerous people, it would seem the most expected scenario is the emergence of a Mubarak dynasty, in the guise of son Gamal, albeit with a more democratic facade. The current constitution, which was rejigged in Mubarak’s favour before the last elections in 2005, states that, in the event of the president’s sudden death, the speaker of the house – Ahmed Fathi Sorour, a staunch Mubarak loyalist – would hold executive power temporarily, until elections can be called.

“There will be elections, most certainly, but how democratic they will be, no one can tell,” said Ahmed. “I think Gamal Mubarak will be the [ruling] National Democratic party‘s candidate, and the NDP candidate will most likely win – and fair and square.”

This is partly because Egyptians, sceptical as they are about politics and politicians, would rather the devil they knew, and partly because the officially approved opposition does not possess a viable candidate.

Miriam, another friend, believes this is no accident. “The NDP has stacked the system and the odds so in its own favour that its candidate will win without the need for any actual, crude cheating,” she observes.

And considering Mubarak’s tight grip on power in Egypt for the past 30 years, a surprising number of ordinary Egyptians would freely vote for his son in free elections, despite the growing power of the “anything but Mubarak” movement.

Moreover, Gamal, with his background in banking, is a popular choice among Egypt’s business elite. “Economists and anyone who is in business would be quite happy for Gamal to take over because he will provide the kind of continuity and stability, as well as the economic competence, the Egyptian economy needs to thrive,” the head of an Egyptian stock brokerage firm told me.

In addition to Gamal’s perceived safe pair of hands, my brother Osama believes this backing for the Mubarak clan is also a manifestation of some kind of Stockholm syndrome among a hostage population half of which has known no other leader. In fact, Osama would not be at all surprised if, despite the current apathy towards Hosni Mubarak, there would be a significant outpouring of public sympathy for him once he died.

Personally, though I am no supporter of Gamal Mubarak, if he becomes Egypt’s next president through free and fair elections, then I can at least draw comfort from the fact that Egypt will be well on its road to democracy.

This column appeared in The Guardian Unlimited’s Comment is Free section on 19 March 2010. Read the related discussion.

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Egypt’s online struggle for democracy

 
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By Osama Diab

In Egypt, political advocacy is being sparked online, on sites like Facebook, but there is significantly less room for movement in Egypt’s real world than in its virtual world.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

In Egypt, many political movements have started, or have grown significantly, on Facebook, such as the April 6 Youth Movement and now the national campaign to support Mohamed ElBaradei, former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nobel Peace Prize winner, for the presidency of Egypt.

Facebook activism has done a lot for Egyptian dissidents and continues to worry the Egyptian regime. A group on Facebook supporting Mohamed ElBaradei managed to attract more than 130,000 members, and its membership is increasing at a fast rate.

Even though online activism can’t achieve the change young Egyptians dream of on its own, it is an important first step for mobilisation in a political environment that doesn’t allow for other forms of political rallying. However, it is unlikely that desktop activism can translate into something tangible unless it is backed by other forms of action.

Currently, there is little indication of this rally in the virtual world transferring to the real world. Not under this constitution. Therefore, lobbying for constitutional change seems like the right starting point.

Article 76 of the Egyptian constitution makes it technically possible but practically impossible for independent candidates to run for the top seat. It says that independent presidential candidates need the endorsement of at least 250 elected members of the parliament and municipal councils, of which at least 90 come from both branches of the parliament. These excessive requirements are all the more burdensome considering that the vast majority of Egypt’s parliament is made up of ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) members.

This is why ElBaradei stresses the importance of constitutional reform. The former IAEA chief has been offered a position in many political parties that would enable him to become a party nominee. However, ElBaradei made it clear many times that he insists on running as an independent because his will to reform and amend the constitution outweighs his will to become president.

The question here is if ElBaradei, along with his supporters, would be able to exert enough pressure to amend the constitution so it would allow for independents to run for president in 2011. Unless the pressure is immense, the answer would most likely be no.

The reason is that constitutional amendments that have taken place in recent years were carefully tailored to make the next elections confined to the NDP candidate (probably Gamal Mubarak) and a few political figureheads from Egyptian parties who were closely monitored and given permission to operate by the Egyptian government.

It will be a great show: five or six candidates from the handful of small, unpopular and poor parties against Gamal Mubarak, with all the media, financial resources and state apparatuses on the latter’s side to help him win in every legitimate and illegitimate way possible. With the deck stacked so greatly in his favour, a victory for the NDP candidate is highly likely.

This does not mean that ElBaradei’s supporters should stop working on expressing their will to reform Egypt’s political infrastructure and present ElBaradei as their candidate and symbol of change, but patience will be necessary.

ElBaradei supporters should expect that he will not be able to run in the coming presidential elections in 2011, but if support for ElBaradei’s continues to grow, the momentum may be a force in the longer run. ElBaradei and his supporters emphasise the importance that change and the transition of power happen peacefully and smoothly, which means the process might take longer, but that it will also be more sustainable.

Abdelrahman el-Taliawy, an ElBaradei enthusiast says, “We are a very fortunate generation. We grew up to find ourselves connected, open to the world and, in a way, uncontrollable. We can feel ourselves holding the future with strings in our hands. But we are tied to our mystic past and grim present. If we are planning to do great things, then we will have to begin with revolutionising our own country.”

el-Taliway goes on, “For us, ElBaradei represents that hope. Hope that we can really change the terrible conditions that we grew up to find ourselves part of. We’re prepared to work with him on campaigns, talk to the people in the streets and publicly protest if we must. Now, we are united and we can feel the power of what we can do. They can never take that from us again.”

This article was first published by WorldPress.org on 28 February 2010. Republished here with the author’s permission. ©Osama Diab. All rights reserved.

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Splitting Egypt’s political atom

 
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By Khaled Diab

Can Mohamed ElBaradei’s campaign for the Egyptian presidency save a country close to political meltdown?

Monday 15 March 2010

Mohamed ElBaradei is no stranger to explosive – even nuclear – situations. As head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he managed, using his legal and diplomatic expertise, to diffuse tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme between the bomb-ho George Bush in Washington and the hot-headed radical President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran. His astute diplomacy even earned him the Nobel peace prize in 2005.

Now, having given up the helm of the IAEA, he is being propelled forward by an unexpected and spontaneous wave of popular support that is breathing new life into Egypt’s staid political landscape. In an unprecedented contrast to the typical, top-down politics of Egypt’s ruling and mainstream opposition parties, ElBaradei has been persuaded, through grassroots activism, to come home and launch a campaign to clean up the country’s radioactive political decay after nearly three decades of toxic rule by the Hosni Mubarak regime.

His return to Egypt has felt more like a state visit by a world leader than the coming home of a senior international diplomat. At the airport, he was treated to a hero’s welcome, with jubilant supporters cheering him on, as if he had already been elected president. The crowd included ordinary Egyptians from across the country, as well as opposition figures, actors and novelists.

And if ElBaradei is allowed to run in the 2011 elections and manages to win – two very big ‘ifs’ indeed – he will be Egypt’s first ever democratically elected leader, four presidents and almost 60 years after the 1952 revolution promised to bring democracy and freedom to Egyptians.

But for the time being, this accidental hero of Egypt’s profound desire for change is being cautiously daring. His feet had hardly touched the ground when he was elevated by Egypt’s diverse and broad-based anti-Mubarak movement to head a coalition for political change, the establishment of which he had reportedly wanted to put off for a few months. Its mission is to lobby the government to make the constitution more democratic and to promote social justice. ElBaradei has even indicated his willingness to enter the presidential race but only if he can run as an independent candidate and if free and fair elections can be guaranteed.

His potential candidacy is a sad condemnation of the Egyptian regime’s unspoken policy of stifling meaningful opposition and engineering the political landscape so that Mubarak appears to be the only show in town. In addition, ElBaradei’s meteoric rise to the upper echelons of the opposition movement is a reflection of the disarray of opposition parties and their failure to tap into popular discontent and mobilise the population to take effective action.

But how has a lawyer from a family of distinguished lawyers, who is not a career politician and who has worked outside Egypt for decades, become the face of reform in Egypt?

Part of the reason is his international standing, which has earned him a great deal of respect and admiration at home. More profoundly, it is a sign of the ageing Mubarak’s failing grip on power, popular frustration at the rotten state of Egyptian politics, socio-economic inequality and widespread opposition to the idea of Gamal Mubarak inheriting the presidency (with a little behind-the-scenes help from his father). This desperation is reflected in the names of grassroots opposition efforts, such as Kifaya (Enough), the Egyptian Campaign against Inheritance of Power, and in the increasingly popular refrain: “Anything but Mubarak”.

The decision to rally around ElBaradei is born of the realisation by activists and the opposition – with the notable exception of the Muslim Brotherhood – that they lacked a charismatic figure to represent people of all classes and political stripes. They are also gambling that ElBaradei’s international standing will protect him from the wrath of the regime and spare him the fate of the previous challenger to Mubarak’s hegemony, Ayman Nour.

So far, the regime has been doing its best to ignore the new pretender’s return and downplay the extent of Baradei Fever. As one blogger put it: “I’m going to enjoy sitting back and watching how the Mubaraks deal with this wildcard.”

But what are ElBaradei’s chances? Many experts are doubtful that ElBaradei will be able run as an independent candidate and time is running out for him to attach himself to a political party. Moreover, joining a party would rob him of his unifying appeal. Amr Hashim Rabie of the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies believes that the best ElBaradei can hope for is to embarrass the regime at home and abroad and to galvanise popular opposition in 2011.

But perhaps it’s too early to write off ElBaradei’s chances. Several months ago, few would’ve suspected the Nobel laureate would be in the situation he’s in today. Besides, we should never underestimate the power of the people, even in a semi-authoritarian regime.

And therein lies ElBaradei’s most powerful weapon. He is a popular figure in Egypt – with over 122,000 members of a Facebook group supporting him in a country where internet penetration is still fairly low. And he understands the power of the people and the need to win their support and backing. A reflection of this savvy is that he wasted no time in meeting the young advocates who first floated the idea of his candidacy and even recorded a Facebook message to them. In recognition of Egypt’s youth bulge and the power of the young to change and innovate, he has also invited young people to become active members of his coalition.

Of course, even if ElBaradei becomes the next president, Egypt will not be magically transformed into a prosperous democracy. That, as I pointed out in my vision for a democratic Egypt, will take generations of concerted effort. Encouragingly, many of his aspirations correspond with other reform-minded Egyptians’ views – and he has indicated that he would not seek re-election if he failed to deliver results. I would go one step further and urge him only to seek a single term in office during which he can democratise the country’s institutions and then hand over the baton to new generations of elected leaders.

This column appeared in The Guardian Unlimited’s Comment is Free section on 1 March 2010. Read the related discussion.

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My plan for a democratic Egypt

 
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By Khaled Diab

With the right leadership, Egypt could rid itself of nepotism and inequality to become a prosperous and egalitarian society.

22 January 2010

While in most countries, even the most democratic, becoming president or prime minister is a far-fetched dream for almost everyone, in Egypt, the prospect exists mostly in the realm of fantasy. In the six or so decades since the 1952 revolution, Egypt has had just four leaders, none of whom were elected – at least not in free and fair elections.

The current president, Hosni Mubarak, has held the top seat for the past three decades or so. This means that the majority of Egyptians, given the country’s ‘youth bulge’, have known no other leader.

Next year, Mubarak’s current term will end and, given his age and health, most Egyptians don’t expect him to seek a sixth term. Egyptians dream of massive positive change in 2011, fear terrible instability and disruption, and some might even settle for ‘business as usual‘ in the form of Mubarak’s son, Gamal – at least for a few years.

Reform-minded Egyptians hope that Mubarak will step aside honourably and take the unprecedented step of calling free and fair elections to find a replacement. The most popular potential candidate at the moment is former IAEA chief and Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, despite the fact that he has lived and worked outside Egypt for decades.

ElBaradei’s popularity is not only a sign of his international standing but also indicates the Egyptian regime’s unofficial policy of engineering the political landscape so that Mubarak appears to be the only show in town. Personally, I fear that, rather than undergo a democratic rebirth, Egypt will either get a second Mubarak or a period of instability until another dictator takes the helm, though I doubt that Islamists are ready in the wings to take over. Nevertheless, I cannot help but hold out hope that 2011 will mark the birth of true Egyptian democracy.

This dream has got me contemplating, although I’ve never entertained political ambitions, what changes I would instigate if I were president. Since I stand about as much chance of being elected to that office as I have of being teleported to Mars, I don’t have to limit myself to the realm of the possible and pragmatic and can let my imagination run loose. Surveying the troubled and dysfunctional typography of Egypt’s society and economy, one is sadly spoilt for choice as to where to begin.

Upon taking office, and to avoid the temptations of power that have led so many initially well-meaning Egyptian leaders astray, I would probably begin with strengthening and shoring up Egypt’s institutions, from the parliament to the judiciary, to ensure an effective separation and balance of powers. But top-down reforms can, at best, only play the role of a catalyst, and not bring about lasting change in themselves. In order to harness Egypt’s massive grassroots potential, I would end the culture of fear and intimidation – at least, the state-sponsored side of this – that keeps Egyptians down.

I would strive to remove all the unconstitutional and undemocratic laws, such as those hindering freedom of expression and conscience, and dismantle Egypt’s enormous police and state security apparatus.

In order to counteract and reverse growing religious fundamentalism and communal strife I would dig up the roots, rather than chop violently away at the outgrowth. A fish rots from the head down, so it is important to launch a serious campaign to root out corruption, first from the highest echelons of society.

More generally, it is essential to challenge the widespread practice of wasta – which permeates all levels of society and causes widespread cynicism and disenchantment – by strictly enforcing the rule of law, without making exceptions for the well-connected. This will be no mean feat, given how deeply ingrained the notion is, but if Egypt is to become a true meritocracy it is a crucial battle that must be won.

Then there’s the economy, which is often erroneously viewed as somehow separate from society. Seeking political and social justice is meaningless if their economic counterpart continues to be denied – in fact, rather than more growth, Egypt needs more economic justice. Egypt’s economy needs not only to continue to develop, but to do so sustainably and equitably.

In a country where economic inequality has grown to chronic proportions, the chasm between the have-alls and the have-nots needs desperately to be bridged. This should be done through a fair, effective and enforced progressive taxation system, as well as the reinstatement and further development of the country’s dismantled social safety net and concerted government investment directed at stimulating Egypt’s impoverished rural hinterland and neglected south.

This requires not just internal reform but also a revamping of the global economic system to make it fairer for developing countries. In addition, the strong arm with which the US-led west imposes its hegemony could foil such efforts if my “pinko” reforms are deemed somehow to be antagonist to US interests in the region.

In parallel with promoting economic justice, competitiveness also needs to be stimulated in order to generate the necessary wealth to boost everyone’s wellbeing. This requires robust and enforceable regulations that level out the economic playing field and weed out the de facto monopolies and cartels that plague the Egyptian economy, as well as reforming the country’s bloated and inefficient bureaucracy.

One reason why superstition reigns and people hark back to a mythical and glorious past is because they feel they lack a future. To give the coming generations a sense of purpose and to allow current generations to build a better future, I would slash military spending and abolish conscription, then use the released resources to invest heavily in education and scientific research.

Of course, I realise that my vision is but a dream untainted by political realities. Even a well-meaning, democratically elected president would have his or her work cut out simply steering Egypt away from the rocks towards which it is currently heading. The kind of transformation I dream of cannot be implemented by any one leader but will take generations of patient and careful change. But with the right political and civil leadership, Egypt can reinvent itself as a prosperous, modern and egalitarian society.

This column appeared in The Guardian Unlimited’s Comment is Free section on 17 January 2010. Read the related discussion.

While in most countries, even the most democratic, becoming president or prime minister is a far-fetched dream for almost everyone, in Egypt, the prospect exists mostly in the realm of fantasy. In the six or so decades since the 1952 revolution, Egypt has had just four leaders, none of whom were elected – at least not in free and fair elections.

The current president, Hosni Mubarak, has held the top seat for the past three decades or so. This means that the majority of Egyptians, given the country’s “youth bulge”, have known no other leader.

Next year, Mubarak’s current term will end and, given his age and health, most Egyptians don’t expect him to seek a sixth term. Egyptians dream of massive positive change in 2011, fear terrible instability and disruption, and some might even settle for “business as usual” in the form of Mubarak’s son, Gamal – at least for a few years.

Reform-minded Egyptians hope that Mubarak will step aside honourably and take the unprecedented step of calling free and fair elections to find a replacement. The most popular potential candidate at the moment is former IAEA chief and Nobel peace laureate Mohamed El Baradei, despite the fact that he has lived and worked outside Egypt for decades.

ElBaradei’s popularity is not only a sign of his international standing but also indicates the Egyptian regime’s unofficial policy of engineering the political landscape so that Mubarak appears to be the only show in town. Personally, I fear that, rather than undergo a democratic rebirth, Egypt will either get a second Mubarak or a period of instability until another dictator takes the helm, though I doubt that Islamists are ready in the wings to take over. Nevertheless, I cannot help but hold out hope that 2011 will mark the birth of true Egyptian democracy.

This dream has got me contemplating, although I’ve never entertained political ambitions, what changes I would instigate if I were president. Since I stand about as much chance of being elected to that office as I have of being teleported to Mars, I don’t have to limit myself to the realm of the possible and pragmatic and can let my imagination run loose. Surveying the troubled and dysfunctional typography of Egypt’s society and economy, one is sadly spoilt for choice as to where to begin.

Upon taking office, and to avoid the temptations of power that have led so many initially well-meaning Egyptian leaders astray, I would probably begin with strengthening and shoring up Egypt’s institutions, from the parliament to the judiciary, to ensure an effective separation and balance of powers. But top-down reforms can, at best, only play the role of a catalyst, and not bring about lasting change in themselves. In order to harness Egypt’s massive grassroots potential, I would end the culture of fear and intimidation – at least, the state-sponsored side of this – that keeps Egyptians down.

I would strive to remove all the unconstitutional and undemocratic laws, such as those hindering freedom of expression and conscience, and dismantle Egypt’s enormous police and state security apparatus.

In order to counteract and reverse growing religious fundamentalism and communal strife I would dig up the roots, rather than chop violently away at the outgrowth. A fish rots from the head down, so it is important to launch a serious campaign to root out corruption, first from the highest echelons of society.

More generally, it is essential to challenge the widespread practice of wasta – which permeates all levels of society and causes widespread cynicism and disenchantment – by strictly enforcing the rule of law, without making exceptions for the well-connected. This will be no mean feat, given how deeply ingrained the notion is, but if Egypt is to become a true meritocracy it is a crucial battle that must be won.

Then there’s the economy, which is often erroneously viewed as somehow separate from society. Seeking political and social justice is meaningless if their economic counterpart continues to be denied – in fact, rather than more growth, Egypt needs more economic justice. Egypt’s economy needs not only to continue to develop, but to do so sustainably and equitably.

In a country where economic inequality has grown to chronic proportions, the chasm between the have-alls and the have-nots needs desperately to be bridged. This should be done through a fair, effective and enforced progressive taxation system, as well as the reinstatement and further development of the country’s dismantled social safety net and concerted government investment directed at stimulating Egypt’s impoverished rural hinterland and neglected south.

This requires not just internal reform but also a revamping of the global economic system to make it fairer for developing countries. In addition, the strong arm with which the US-led west imposes its hegemony could foil such efforts if my “pinko” reforms are deemed somehow to be antagonist to US interests in the region.

In parallel with promoting economic justice, competitiveness also needs to be stimulated in order to generate the necessary wealth to boost everyone’s wellbeing. This requires robust and enforceable regulations that level out the economic playing field and weed out the de facto monopolies and cartels that plague the Egyptian economy, as well as reforming the country’s bloated and inefficient bureaucracy.

One reason why superstition reigns and people hark back to a mythical and glorious past is because they feel they lack a future. To give the coming generations a sense of purpose and to allow current generations to build a better future, I would slash military spending and abolish conscription, then use the released resources to invest heavily in education and scientific research.

Of course, I realise that my vision is but a dream untainted by political realities. Even a well-meaning, democratically elected president would have his or her work cut out simply steering Egypt away from the rocks towards which it is currently heading. The kind of transformation I dream of cannot be implemented by any one leader but will take generations of patient and careful change. But with the right political and civil leadership, Egypt can reinvent itself as a prosperous, modern and egalitarian society.

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