Egyptian democracy under military's boot
Back in February, while the protestors in Cairo's Tahrir Square were reaching numbers in the hundreds of thousands, I interviewed Mark Wahba, an Egyptian student at Santa Monica College. Some of the questions I touched on had to deal with thoughts on the fate of Hosni Mubarak (Egypt's recently deposed president of 30 years), the Egyptian people's desire for freedom and respect, and the distinction between the police and military structures in Egypt. Aside from Wahba's parents being Egyptian, there was very little of what Wahba said that could be taken as anything but pure conjecture.
There was, however, one thing that stood out. On the subject of the military, Wahba had this to say:
"The military is one with the people," said Wahba. "They have the final say, and they have the happiness of the people at heart."
That was two months ago, when the Egyptian people celebrated the Egyptian forces for taking their side and allowing them the forum to voice their collective frustrations and demands. Pictures streamed out from Cairo of people celebrating atop tanks and hugging soldiers. Their peaceful revolution seemed just within their grasp, and with the fall of Hosni Mubarak, it seemed anything was possible for the Arab Spring.
Nonetheless, all of my feelings of trepidation, suspicion, and wariness at that time about the Egyptian military assuming control of the transition from autocracy to democracy have unfortunately been confirmed.
My grounds for suspicion were based on the simple fact that the military is not some isolated structure within Egyptian society. In all seriousness, militaries answer to a higher command, and in the case of Egypt's military, it doesn't take any stretch of the imagination to assume that Egypt's generals answered to Mubarak and his ministries. Whether they were happy to answer to Mubarak is another story, but seeing how the army stood down, and deferred to the will of the people instead of to established order, speaks volumes on the opportunity the army saw to seize power.
Egypt has a big problem on their hands. On April 11, an Egyptian blogger named Maikel Nabil, 26, was given three years in prison for "insulting the army after he publicized reports of abuses by the military," according to the Associated Press.I make no claims to being a military or social/political analyst, but by simple virtue of common sense, this decision by the Egyptian army doesn't seem to "have the happiness of the people at heart." Rather, this seems to send a very clear message to the Egyptian people, and that message is this: If you try to practice your basic human right to free speech, think again, because we'll come over, kick down your door, and throw you in a cage.
Armies should never be given the trust and the privilege to govern without a higher authority for a military to answer to. They are not only made effectively above the law, but in the case of Nabil, they are the law. Which magistrates or judges have the power to stand up to the militia? In the cold, methodical language of revolutions, the man with the biggest guns and fattest wallet is the man afforded all the power.
Those couple of months ago, I was thrilled to see how adamantly devoted the Egyptian people were towards realizing their aspirations in a peaceful manner. Though many people died, Mubarak ceded power without the need of a war or military coup. Now with the military in control and indiscriminately violating human rights, I sincerely hope that the once peaceful revolution will not slip into civil war.