Seasons in the abyss: January 2011-January 2017

Al Ahram Weekly on 19/1/2017

Six years have passed since the ignition of the 25 January Revolution and they have felt like 60 years for most Egyptians. There isn’t a shred of doubt that the Egypt the world knew has changed forever, for better or for worse. Since the January 2011 Revolution, Egypt has witnessed four presidents, including an interim one, Judge Adli Mansour, and one de-facto president as the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.

What transpired from the January 2011 Revolution and its follow up in June 2013 will be left to historians to review and argue about for decades if not centuries to come. However, one fact remains, that no single human being, Egyptian or not living in Egypt, throughout the past six years didn’t see major changes in his or her life regardless if they are positive or negative. The events that followed January 2011 cannot be summarised in an article or even a single book.

Fall of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists: The rise and fall of the Islamists marked the end of one of the bloodiest chapters in Egypt’s modern history. That chapter began with the epic rise of the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group to the highest seat of power post-January 2011, controlling both parliament and the presidency through questionable elections. Blessed by international powers such as the United States and the EU, along with the support of regional players such as Qatar and Turkey, the Islamists believed that the die was cast and Egypt was theirs for eternity. They extremely abused their power within the span of year, warranting an even bigger revolution than January 2011 on 30 June 2013.

The 30 June 2013 Revolution marked a turning point not only in the history of Egypt but the entire Middle East region. The vast political expansion of Islamists, grabbing one country after another, came to a screeching halt after being ousted by Egyptians in the biggest popular revolution in recorded history.

Years from now, the Egyptian 30 June 2013 Revolution will become of macro-historical importance in the annals of history. This revolution will be as significant as the Battle of Ain Galoot on 3 September 1260 when the Egyptian Mameluks army led by Sultan Qotoz defeated Genghis Khan’s grandson Hulago and the Mongol army led by commander Kitubga, thus dealing the Mongols their first ever defeat that consequently was the beginning of the end of the largest contiguous empire in history. Without their defeat in the battle of Ain Galoot, no one could have predicted where the Mongol empire would have reached and how many nations would have fallen into ruins. Thus Egypt’s army saved the civilised world, east and west, from a horrifying destiny.

History repeats itself, and Egyptians once again saved the world in a different way from what could have been the beginning of a vicious caliphate led by the Muslim Brotherhood to last 500 years, according to their fascist dream of domination. That dream ended in a single year, followed by arrests of the terrorist group’s leaders and the defeat of the oldest and most notorious Islamist group on the planet.

The defeat of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood was achieved at a hefty cost economically, socially, politically and most importantly, humanly. Thousands of Egyptians have been killed in terrorist attacks throughout the past six years, and particularly post-June 2013 when the notorious group declared war on the Egyptian state and people.

Despite hefty casualties, in lives and in the economy, many Egyptians do not regret having to fight this war against the Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamist allies. To many Egyptians, this was the last war of liberation from the tyranny of Islamism that haunted their lives for over eight decades since the inception of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 until now.

Economic troubles: Economically, the last six years has witnessed the fall of the once stable Egyptian pound to less than one third of its value pre-January 2011, which was at around LE5.5 against the US dollar, nose-diving towards nearly LE19 pounds against the dollar in January 2017. This was a direct result of terrorism, the fall in tourism revenues, ineffective economic plans followed by an unplanned and catastrophic floating of the currency.

With over 50 per cent of Egypt’s foodstuffs being imported, the brunt of the currency devaluation was felt in every Egyptian household of all levels. The record inflation that is being witnessed in Egypt, particularly in the years 2015-2016, led many Egyptians to question if it was worth it to overthrow Mubarak in the first place. For many, despite the lack of democratic practices, the country was at least stable pre-January 2011. On the other hand, many believe that the Mubarak stability was a fragile one; hence the chaos that followed his stepping down as a result of the January 2011 Revolution.

Political and military power resurgence: Politically, domestic politics is still ruled by yesteryear political forces, despite all cosmetic changes. Indeed, there has been a democratic election that took place post-June 2013 and that resulted in the election of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi for a four-year term. Also, with the election of the new Egyptian parliament in 2015, which on paper may be the finest parliament that was ever elected in Egypt’s 150-year parliamentary history. The current parliament has great representation of Christians, women, and the handicapped and is not yet dominated by any single power or party, which seems ideal on paper.

Despite the above, its lacklustre performance has disappointed most Egyptians thus far. Parliament is still incapable of tackling Egypt’s most pressing social, economic and political issues effectively. Also, parliament became a hub for applauding and condoning some unpopular and ineffective government policies that have crippled the much anticipated growth of Egypt in the past years.

Internationally, Egypt against all odds, is regaining its position as the regional political player to court with regard to resolving most of the region troubles.

The re-emergence of Egypt as a regional, continental and international player came as a blessing to most world powers where there is a staunch belief that Egypt remains the colossus of the region and that its stability is of paramount importance.

Militarily, the Egyptian army is in a stronger position than it was before January 2011. The Egyptian army is at the peak of its powers, despite the economic turmoil that Egypt has witnessed. Egypt manifested its power militarily with a massive rearmament programme that has been the envy of many in the region. Despite the war on terrorism, mainly in the turbulent governorate of North Sinai, the army is utilising less than three per cent of its power in that region and is annihilating the Islamic State group affiliated Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis terrorist outfit slowly to avoid civilian casualties. On the other hand, for the first time in Egypt’s history, Egyptians are proud of the newly inaugurated Southern Fleet as the prominent naval power in the Red Sea and the Middle East, protecting the free flow of trade across the sea and the Suez Canal.

Conclusion: The Arab Spring may have been mostly destructive in the Middle East, but it was not a total loss in some countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, as newly elected parliaments and presidents have been chosen freely by the people. Both constitutions contain ironclad clauses that limit presidential terms to only two.

The silver lining around the mess that burst forth in Egypt and the rest of the region is that the majority of citizens of the region are now completely convinced that the “caliphate” and religious systems of governance only belong to the history books and the Arabian Nights fairy tales. Moreover, now more than ever, they are convinced that only a secular system of governance can extract Egypt and the rest of the region from the abyss that it fell in.

The signs of a better life in the future are still dim, but they can be traced. However, a total reconsideration of current economic policies is imperative to place the nation back on the track to economic recovery. Egypt may still suffer for more seasons and years in the darkness that it found itself in, but if the past seven millennia of history serve as any indicator, Egypt will rebound again and reclaim its place as the leader of the region thanks to this nation’s sons and daughters. The great ability to rise from the ashes and resurrect like a phoenix has been a historical Egyptian trait. Such has always been our strength and such is our destiny.

Original Post At Al Ahram Weekly

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/News/19332/21/Seasons-in-the-abyss–January——January—–.aspx

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