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The promise of Tahrir Square
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 31 - 03 - 2014

Did anyone in Egypt, or outside it, imagine, in those halcyon days of 2011, where the promise of Tahrir Square will end up? Since 2011, the country has suffered from violence under its successive governments.
Last Monday, an Egyptian court in the city of Minya sentenced 529 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to death for their alleged role in the killing of a policeman.
The chain of events leading to the largest single batch of the death sentences took place in August 2013. In addition to the murder, the 529 defendants, all supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, were accused of attempting to kill two other police officers and attacking a police station. The incident occurred after the military ousted Morsi in July 2013 and broke up two pro-Morsi encampments in Cairo.
Ever since the overthrow of Morsi, Egypt has been wracked by militant bombings, suicide attacks and other assaults targeting police and military forces. The authorities have blamed the Brotherhood for the violence, branding it a terrorist organization, confiscating its assets and exposing its members and supporters to sentences under anti-terrorism laws.
It is possible to argue that if not Sisi, someone else from the army would have staged a takeover against Morsi, given the unrest and chaos his actions and lack of it were plunging Egypt into.
The army, it is true, was unhappy with the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and the opposition to the government from an institution which insisted on an outsized role — and not just in defense policy — for itself, regardless of the electoral outcome, was only to be expected.
But Morsi, by trying to impose the Brotherhood's ideological agenda, drove the secular and liberal opposition and the minorities to this outcome since this political group refused to transform into a more moderate, inclusive and reconciliatory force.
The millions of anti-Morsi demonstrators who packed Cairo's Tahrir Square and city squares across the country demanding the president's resignation last year gave the impression of Tahrir Square II.
Morsi's aberrations led to the the crackdown of the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters.
It has become obvious that unless the military, secular opposition and Islamists can find a modus vivendi based on democratic principles, stability and security will elude Egypt.
Can Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who announced his decision to quit the army and run for president last week, do this? We can only hope that he will succeed. After the overthrow of Morsi, several people have been arrested and not just Islamist but also some secular pro-democracy leaders are on the run.
Four of the most famous leaders of the 2011 revolution are in jail on charges of participating in unsanctioned demonstrations. The former president faces charges carrying death sentence.
The new government has done this in the hope that it can bring back stability to the country wracked recently by the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters.
Sisi has the support of the majority of the Egyptian people and it is hoped that his election will bring peace and prosperity to the the nation that has been rocked by violence since the ouster of Mubarak.
His election need not signal a return to the oppression of the past, as some opponents fear, but could pave the way to bringing democracy and stability to the country.
Once he wins popular mandate, he will be in a better position to resist pressures from the army establishment and may try to keep a distance from it.
By now it must be clear to all that the military alone cannot stabilize Egypt, much less address its severe economic and social problems.
While announcing his candidacy, Sisi warned Egyptians he could not perform miracles. He need not. The least the people expect of him is that he could restore normalcy to the lives of his own people who have lost their peace of mind for a long time.
With Sisi's popular support from the cross-section of Egypt's society, the most hopeful option to bring normalcy to the country is for the people to support him and the opposition to act with reason if he comes out victorious in the coming elections.
That would fulfill the promise of Tahrir Square.


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