A roadmap for Egypt’s future
With Egypt facing a seemingly insurmountable political impasse as violence has taken over much of central Cairo, Port Said, Suez and Ismaileya over the past four days, there is very little hope for an end to the ongoing clashes that have come to be an almost 24-hour never-ending occurrence. On Monday, as the leaders of the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) refused to enter into a national dialogue with President Mohamed Morsi, citing the lack of sincerity on the president’s part, a compromise may not be coming, at least not in the near future.
However, there are a few issues that the NSF could push that would resonate with those angry on the streets. First, having justice brought against those top security officials for their role in the killing of Egyptian citizens over the past two years; Second, recognizing that the country’s elections are legitimate and must be upheld; and third, forcing out the minister of interior and replacing him with a person respected and agreed upon by all sides as part of an overhaul and restructuring of the police force in the country.
Many Egyptians I have spoken with on the ground at the Cairo clashes near the frontlines over the past few days have pointed to their hatred of the police, those same police who were on the streets two years ago today killing and murdering protesters. With anger fomenting daily on the ground, protesters who have long fought, been injured and seen their friends die at the hands of the black clad riot soldiers, who are again bringing down barrages of tear gas and bullets on largely defenseless protesters. If the president were to take action against the police and those responsible for ordering soldiers to fire on protesters, in this current violence as well as over the past two years – including the 2011 revolution – this would immediately show compromise is possible.
Second, most Egyptians, whether they abhor Morsi, his policies, the Muslim Brotherhood he comes from, or love him, believe he was part of a democratic change that has arrived, albeit without transparency and irregularities. This is vital in bringing forth a true compromise and national dialogue. If Morsi, Egypt’s elected leader, feels threatened, he is unlikely to change his tactics, as seen by his defiant speech on Sunday. The NSF could make inroads into bringing the Islamic government to the table with concessions, if they were to accept Morsi’s rule, instead of calling for a national salvation government. That time has, unfortunately, passed. While the NSF may be in the right in arguing Morsi’s rule is illegitimate, the fact remains, and public opinion supports this, he is Egypt’s president. By making a public note of this could ease the fast-rising tension that is leading the country to a further impasse on the ground and in the palace.
Third, and arguably most important for ending the violence: Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim must go. Anyone who oversees the wholesale slaughter of civilians as we are witnessing today in Egypt must be held accountable. His departure and potential trial, as well as former ministers and the police chiefs in the country, would tell Egypt and its protesters that there is hope. Without this public departure from the past few decades of police brutality, Egypt cannot move forward. Over the past two years, we have heard calls for a non-military person taking over the ministry of interior. It hasn’t happened. Maybe the time is now to make this a reality, someone who upholds human rights values that represent the revolutionary vision that a majority of Egyptians have at this moment. Without wholesale change, and the restructuring of the police apparatus in Egypt, the status quo of violence will continue.
While this may all be just a pipe dream, boycotts and refusal to enter a dialogue, however weak and insincere, has not worked. What Egypt needs today is a complete overhaul of the political system that has engendered this violence, which once again has exploded and rocked the country. How many more people will have to die for a revolution of hope that was sparked on January 25, 2011 will be allowed to be successful?