14/10/2011

Egypt: to save the gains of the revolution

Following the burning of a church in Aswan on Friday, September 30th, a demonstration was organized by the Coptic community in Cairo last Sunday. Having started in the district of Shoubra the march attended by thousands of demonstrators, ended in the blood in Maspero in front of the building of the Egyptian state television. First attacked by armed groups, it is ultimately the Egyptian armed forces themselves that attacked the crowd of protesters, leaving 25 dead including 17 Copts and over 300 injured (see story of the events by Sarah Carr in Al Masry Al Youm).

This violence is alarming for several reasons. They are of course the sign of the deterioration of the situation for the Coptic community in the post-Mubarak era, but they are also and overall a sign of the dangers that loom over the young democracy in construction. Indeed, this deterioration is not so much due to religious extremists than the result of a conscious policy by the supporters of the old regime. The clashes are helping to legitimize the continuation of the emergency law, which means all the power to the military.

This is no doubt that one of the biggest drawbacks the young democracy will have to avoid. The majority of Egyptians supports religious freedom and supports the understanding between both communities. But the crowds can be manipulated, especially by the media. And the official media are still in the hands of supporters of the Mubarak era and can therefore regularly makeup the reality to serve their goals.

But the revolutionary forces still remain vigilant as evidenced by a statement issued by 29 political and public figures that Egypt Thursday, October 13. They argue that the events of October 9 were fully orchestrated by the Superior Council of the Armed Forces (see report in The Daily News Egypt, 13 October). Interviewed by La Libre this Friday, the spokesman of the movement of April 6, Waleed Rashed, gives the same analysis: « What happened Sunday is not a problem between Muslims and Christians, but between the army and the Christians » « The Copts have understood that the Muslims were not the source of the problem and urged the faithful not to take revenge ». He explains that the only real clashes between Muslims and Copts are held in areas where education is weaker. But according to him, the post-Mubarak Egypt aspires to become a civil state.

These events show the fragility of the transition in Egypt. The European Union and its Member States have an important role to play to support and empower the people and forces that guarantee the gains of the revolution, and to enable them to move forward. Without interference in Egyptian affairs, the EU must now find ways to implement its new neighborhood policy, and this in being consistent with the values ​​of democracy and human rights that it claims to defend.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée