We present here feminist voices from Egypt on the current situation in the country: Hibaaq Osman, founder of Karama,http://www.el-karama.org/); Hoda Elsadda, Global Fund for Women; and Nazra for Feminist Studies.
Egypt at its Best
"Democracy has never been about elections... Democracy is meant to be for the people and by the people."
No one thought they would see this day again. Egypt had its first revolution in 2011 and we felt the sweeping emotion that comes from watching people take control of their own futures. We were proud then, not just those of us watching from inside of Egypt, but men and women all across the globe felt this pride. We were all inspired in witnessing that the people’s will could be strong enough to carry their demands across forces that previously seemed impossible to break down.
Nearly two years later, it feels like revolution all over again. The people’s demands were not met after Mohamed Morsi and his government took control. The focus, which should’ve been on a struggling economy and deteriorating sense of stability and security, was placed instead on Islamist politics and securing majority control. Instead of offering more freedom to people who felt marginalized, persecuted and forgotten under Former President Hosni Mubarak, Morsi focused on taking more freedoms away.
Women felt this intensely since the transition began and well after. As amendments to hard-won laws broadening their rights were proposed, they felt their voices rise in their throats in frustration and anger. It seemed their revolution—their chance at true equality, safety and prosperity—was being hijacked, but they were unwilling to let this happen. We said it over and over again: democracy without women is hypocrisy and women will not be left behind.
But it wasn’t just women who felt this way. Unemployment is estimated to have reached 13 percent this month, leaving over 3 million people in Egypt without steady incomes. Nearly half the population continues to live near or below the international poverty line of 2 dollars a day per person. Under Morsi, the government delayed unpalatable austerity measures time and again—such as cutting fuel subsidies—for fear of losing votes or support.
Meanwhile, due to the lack of policy transparency and political stability, investors grew cautious and tourists grew nervous, hitting Egypt’s GDP hard and making resources even scarcer. Scenes of cars and trucks lining up around the block at gas stations became common. The new Egypt envisioned when people took to the streets in 2011, the Egypt that was fought for with blood and sweat and tears was not the nation we were watching Egypt become.
Democracy has never been about elections. Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood kept speaking of the elections that took place in 2012 as proof of their rightful place at the head of Egypt’s government but under their control, democratization has never taken place. The people’s demands were ignored. Democracy is meant to be for the people and by the people. Democratic leaders should represent the best interests of those they lead, not their own selfish desires at the cost of the country they are responsible for.
The military has ousted Morsi today and in dubbing this a second revolution, I propose we are also blessed with a second opportunity to do things the right way. Women once again fought alongside men in the streets and they cannot be left behind again. And people cannot continue to face hunger and poverty when they are educated and willing to work.
The last two years must provide a lesson to new leadership and to the military, who is now charged with restoring the security and stability that will bring the international community back to Egypt. More than half of Egyptians cannot be left behind as new policies emerge and the priorities of the people must be the priorities of the government.
Egypt must be a lesson to all—especially to its neighboring countries—that the will of the people will never die.
As we did in 2011, we look to the international community now to support the wishes of the Egyptian people and reject any government that attempts to undermine this.
And just as we did then, we hope above all hopes that the new Egypt will be the Egypt we have grown to love and believe in, the Egypt we’ve seen in the squares. In the hearts and soul of the people.
Seven thousand years of history—I get it now.