Arab Spring is turning into Arab Winter in Egypt; and, by the looks of it, a very cold one. The Arab Spring movement ousted the 30-years-long one-man show of Hosni Mubarak and paved the way for democracy. The people were happy that better late than never, at least in the 21st century, Egyptians were on the way to enjoying fundamental freedoms of thought, speech and assembly. The inalienable human rights that generations of Egyptians had been denied, first by the colonialists and then by military-backed dictators.
This Sunday, with the sentencing for three years imprisonment plus hefty fines of three secular leaders of the Arab Spring movement, the dream of a democratic Egypt is all but over. The three men hastily sentenced by a military-style summary court are Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohammed Adel. These three were the main figures in the organization of anti-Mubarak protests and rallies that eventually lead to his fall. Egypt was at last a free country, at least that was the common perception back then; but. in reality. it was not to be.
In the first presidential elections that were held in Egypt, Mohammad Morsi came to power. The Muslim Brotherhood also swept the parliamentary elections. The one-year rule of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood was worse than any dictatorship Egyptians had endured. Morsi and his party clamped strict rules and the dream of a free Egypt evaporated as fast as it had emerged. Political scores were settled and dissenters were brutally tortured, murdered in cold blood and put behind bars. Media both state-owned and private was asked to toe the government’s line and anti-government protests were banned.
Once again. people like Douma, Adel and Maher started organizing people against these injustices perpetrated by the Morsi regime; and, once again, they were successful in mobilizing Egyptians. Consequently, like Mubarak before him, Morsi too was ousted in a popular military coup. The Arab Spring has started turning into an Arab Winter.
The present government, it appears, is no different from the regime it ousted. The unpopular law under which the three popular leaders are sentenced is cited by the government as a way to restore law and order on the streets of Egypt. While the opponents hold that it is a move by the interim government to abrogate civil liberties in the country, once again. National and international political commentators hold that the much-touted Arab Spring has started turning into an Arab Winter; and, that too, a very nasty one.
Now, Morsi and his hardcore supporters are in jail and facing possible death sentences for charges of jail break, espionage and incitement to murder political opponents. To top that, three secular youth leaders have become the first victims of the controversial protest law passed by the interim government last month. Egyptian political analysts believe that”fulul”–the remnants of the Mubarak era occupying high posts in the judiciary, the police, the bureaucracy and, most crucial of all, in the military–are in the process of seizing power in Egypt.
With the proposed referendum to be held on Jan. 14-15, which is to decide the shape of the future dispensation in Egypt, the political landscape looks very bleak. The 2011 Arab Spring movement is gradually but surely turning into late 2013 Arab Winter in Egypt.
By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada