by Yusuf Dhia-Allah (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 39, No. 3, Jumada' al-Ula', 1431)
Extending the state of emergency will only fuel the rising tide of anger. People are being crushed by exorbitant prices of essential commodities, legendary corruption and a lethargic bureaucracy
Egypt’s rubber-stamp parliament extended on May 11 the state of emergency for another two years that has been in place since October 1981. What precisely is the emergency facing the country of nearly 80 million was not made clear except that the octogenarian president, Husni Mubarak, who had just returned from prostate cancer surgery in Europe feared that his rule might end with his death. He is grooming his sons to take over after he finally leaves the scene. The Egyptian parliamentarians have once again proved that they are spineless individuals. They also ignored the fact that Mubarak has already turned 82 and is not likely to be around for much longer even though he may believe he will live forever.
Extending the state of emergency will only fuel the rising tide of anger. People are being crushed by exorbitant prices of essential commodities, legendary corruption and a lethargic bureaucracy. Lack of facilities such as clean drinking water and jobs and the stifling pollution on its clogged streets, especially in Cairo, further fuel people’s resentment. Mubarak has used the state of emergency to stifle dissent and crush opposition to his corrupt and barbaric rule. It also flouts a pledge he had given five years ago to lift the state of emergency. If there were any lingering hopes that Mubarak would open up the system somewhat and allow people to have a fair chance to elect their own representatives, these have been dashed.
As if to underscore the point, the Emergency State Security Court in Egypt announced that the trial of four members of al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon (Muslim Brotherhood) will begin on July 14. They are charged with affiliation to and fundraising for a banned group (in Mubarak’s utopia on the Nile, the Ikhwan remain banned). Three of the four members — Dr. Ashraf Abdel Ghaffar, Ibrahim Moneer and Wagdi Ghoneim, an imam — to be put on trial are not even in the country. How farcical the legal system in Mubarak’s Egypt is can be gleaned from the fact that Dr. Osama Soliman, the only defendant present, is still in prison despite the court’s release order issued more than six months ago. The “international network” case was closed after all the defendants were cleared and acquitted by the court as no evidence was presented against them. This, however, did not deter the regime; the case was reopened six months later. Torture is rampant in Egyptian prisons. Beatings, sexual abuse, tying detainees in stressful positions for prolonged periods and setting dogs upon them are some of the techniques used by the regime’s minions.
Mubarak’s earlier presidential campaigns in which he was the sole candidate have been marked by massive fraud and the jailing or violent suppression of the opposition. In the last presidential election, the opposition candidate, Ayman Nour, was imprisoned before the votes were cast. This is why the emergency law is needed: it allows the police to arrest and indefinitely detain people without charge and makes free assembly by opposition groups virtually impossible. Mohammed El-Baradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on whom people have pinned hopes to lead the domestic reform movement and stand against Mubarak, has pointed out that it will be impossible for him or anyone else to challenge Mubarak in the election if the emergency law remains in place.
Is the US, even under Barack Obama, the self-proclaimed president for change, exercised by these developments in Egypt? Recently leaked documents reveal an exchange between Washington and Cairo regarding the future of US economic assistance to Egypt. The documents indicate that the Obama administration has welcomed Cairo’s idea of ending traditional assistance in favour of creating a new endowment, “The Egyptian-American Friendship Foundation.” A central plank of this proposal would be a number of “funds” including a “Mubarak-Obama Education, Science, and Technology Fund.” Now that is something that will excite the oppressed Egyptian people. A more appropriate title would have been “The Pharaoh-Hypocrite Fund for Unending Oppression and Tyranny in Egypt.”