Egypt’s Generals Retake Power

Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egyptian elections

Supporters of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi (portrait) celebrate in Cairo's Tahrir square on June 18, 2012. PATRICK BAZ/AFP/GettyImages

Over the last four days, a stunning succession of events has cast doubt on whether Egypt will transition to an accountable system of government:

  1. Egypt’s Supreme Court nullified recent parliamentary elections.
  2. Egypt’s military disbanded Parliament and assumed legislative powers.
  3. Egypt’s Minister of Justice expanded the military’s powers to arrest civilians.

All of this happened on the eve of this weekend’s runoff elections for the presidency.  On Saturday and Sunday, voters went to the polls to choose between two presidential candidates — Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mursi has claimed victory, and Egyptian media are also reporting that to be the case. Whoever wins the presidency will take office without a parliament, a constitution, or defined presidential powers, and will have to negotiate with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) –  the military leadership. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

A New Round of Assaults on Egyptian Women Protesters

Egyptian Women Protest in Cairo

Egyptian women demonstrate in Cairo MOHAMMED HOSSAM/AFP/Getty Images

When Egyptian politics get hot, it’s women who most often feel the flames. So when a group of Egyptian women took to Tahrir Square this past Friday to denounce the frequent assaults on women activists, it wasn’t surprising that they themselves came under attack.

According to Amnesty International, the women were calling for an end to sexual harassment of woman protesters when a mob of men came upon them and groped and punched the activists.

These women stood up to demand an end to sexual harassment. What they got was intimidation and sexual assault.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui

At a critical time for Egypt’s future, the attacks underscore how women’s rights to full political participation are central to the spirit of the 2011 uprisings and the hope that Egypt can develop a new political culture based on respect for all human rights.  The attack on the women activists goes straight to the heart of the ruling regime’s efforts to maintain its old practices.

This was the second report this month of women protesters being assaulted in Egypt.  Nihal Saad Zaghloul told Amnesty International that she and three friends were attacked by a large group of men on June 2 in Tahrir Square as they joined a protest after the verdict in Hosni Mubarak’s trial. She was pushed and groped and her headscarf pulled off before some men in the square came to her aid. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Is Egypt’s “State of Emergency” Finally Over?

egyptian protester run tear gas

A masked Egyptian protester runs after picking up a tear gas canister fired by riot police during clashes near the interior ministry in Cairo on February 4, 2012. (Photo KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Last night at midnight, Egypt’s 31-year-old “Emergency Law” came to an end.  The law gave Egypt’s police and security forces widespread powers to arrest and detain Egyptian civilians.

Under Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, thousands of people experienced torture and other human rights abuses.  So far, government accountability for these violations has been almost nonexistent.

Egyptians may get the first steps towards accountability tomorrow, when a verdict is expected in the trial of Mubarak on charges of killing protesters during the “January 25 Revolution” last year. Some 840 protesters were killed and more than 6000 injured during the uprising that forced Mubarak to step down in February 2011.  But while significant, this trial does not delve into the human rights abuses under Mubarak’s rule for the three decades prior to the revolution. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Asking Tough Questions on US Military Aid to Egypt

egyptian protester run tear gas

A masked Egyptian protester runs after picking up a tear gas canister fired by riot police during clashes near the interior ministry in Cairo on February 4, 2012. (Photo KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

When the news finally came, it was through the back door.  Last week, US Senator Patrick Leahy posted a public statement expressing “disappointment” with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision to waive new Congressional human rights requirements on US aid to Egypt.

In Senator Leahy’s words:

The Egyptian military should be defending fundamental freedoms and the rule of law …  They should end trials of civilians in military courts and fully repeal the Emergency Law, and our policy should not equivocate on these key reforms.

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