There are so many troubling signs of dysfunctional political life in the Arab world that it is refreshing to note three simultaneous developments this week that give us more hope for a stable, normal future.
In the wake of the January 25 revolution, the Egyptian political scene has undoubtedly been exclusionary to Egyptian women. The biggest surprise has been the continuation of this stance under the secular current’s guidance.
The draft constitution submitted to Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, on December 2 settles a few important matters—it enhances the status of the state institutions that banded together against the Muslim Brotherhood, including the military, judiciary, and police. But it leaves other equally important questions unanswered. The sequencing, system, and timing for presidential and parliamentary elections remain unclear, for example, issues that are particularly fraught because Defense Minister Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who removed Mohammed Morsi from power in July, might run for president.
We will know in the coming months whether the current “second chance” roadmap to constitutional reform in Egypt achieves that transition to democratic legitimacy that was mismanaged in the two years after the overthrow of the Hosni Mubarak regime.
Mohamed Elshahed founded Cairobserver, Egypt’s first architecture and urbanism website. He speaks with Senior Editor Jonathan Guyer about the city’s grit: which historic areas are at risk, what residents say about their own neighborhoods, and how the government reacts to endemic problems.
The downfall of Egypt’s elected Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, in July 2013 has not resulted in the separation of religion and state in the country. Indeed, something quite different seems to be occurring: religion is being nationalized.
Egypt’s military-backed roadmap—criticized by some activists and commentators as undemocratic by virtue of its inception following President Mohammed Morsi’s ouster on July 3—is in a crucial phase. The drafting of a new constitution for Egypt has the potential to put the country on the right course.
Yemen remains the only country to have gone through the Arab Uprisings with neither a descent into civil war nor an abrupt course reversal. The good news is that Yemenis from all factions and regions are still talking; the bad news is that a couple of large bumps on the road need to be dealt with before the political dialogue reaches fruition.
I was struck a few days ago when I read U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement in Riyadh, after talks with the Saudi Arabian leadership, that the United States had neither “the legal authority nor desire” to intervene in Syria.
Since June 2013,the Egyptian military has maintained its most effective operation yet against tunnel networks in the Sinai. Looking forward, though, it is unclear how long Egypt can sustain the current success in tunnel closures.
Protests in Gezi Park continue to be a powerful symbol against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party. However, few outside of Turkey know that the “hooligan” soccer fans of Istanbul were instrumental in the first days of the Gezi Park occupation and protest.
Will Egypt’s political scene remain as violent and hollow as it is now? Instead of searching for a framework within which both sides can emerge as winners (if only relatively), each faction is striving to ensure that the other loses everything, even at the cost of emerging themselves from the battle empty-handed.
Sudanese demonstrations, starting in the city of Niyala in Darfur and extending to engulf Wad-Madin and Khartoum, took most observers by surprise. Few countries came out in support of the uprising. This uprising has now become strong enough to be called Sudan’s Revolution.
Recent headlines have heralded the demise of Tunisia’s governing Islamist party, Ennahda. In fact, this interpretation is misleading. Ennahda and its coalition partners committed to talks and an opposition-defined roadmap which enjoins the current government to resign three weeks from the beginning of discussions.
I recall the good old days in Yemen from 2004 to 2007—that is, relatively speaking. I was then the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, which pretty much enjoyed the run of the country. Sanaa is now classified as an unaccompanied post, meaning it is too dangerous for diplomats to bring families with them.
Egypt and its democratic aspirations have been grievously wounded by the swift and severe manner in which the armed forces evicted and jailed Morsi, arrested most of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, killed hundreds of pro-Morsi demonstrators, and then started exerting pressure on the mass media to conform to the generals’ policies.
Syria’s future will not depend on the actors that will dominate specific parts of the country in the medium term. Two other factors are more crucial: how the largest segments of the society will define Syria; and how that social view would affect sectarianism in the country.