Spring Stirrings and MisgivingsRoundup
tags: Middle East, foreign policy, Arab Spring, Trump
Rebecca Gordon is the author of Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States. She teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. She is a member of the War Times/Tiempo de Guerras collective. You can contact her through the Mainstreaming Torture website.
“Al-Shebab,” said my student Jerry early in the fall 2010 semester. “We’re calling our small group al-Shebab. It means ‘The Youth.’” From his name alone, I wouldn’t have guessed his background, but he was proud of his family’s Egyptian roots and had convinced his classmates to give their group an Arabic name.
As usually happens when the semester ends and my dozens of students scatter, Jerry and I lost touch. The following April, however, we ran into each other at a rally organized by students at my university to support the Arab Spring. Like many others around the world, I’d watched transfixed as brave unarmed civilians faced down riot police on the bridges leading to Cairo’s Tahrir Square. I’d celebrated on February 11, 2011, when the corrupt and authoritarian Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak resigned as the military took control of that country.
Jerry’s eyes sparkled when he saw me. “Isn’t it amazing?” he shouted. Yes, it was amazing... until it wasn’t.
This spring, eight years later, there has been a new set of popular uprisings in northern Africa, from Algeria to Morocco, to Sudan. Let’s hope they have more lasting success than Egypt’s Arab Spring.
It’s All About the Military
The victory over Hosni Mubarak was indeed amazing, perhaps too amazing to last, since the real arbiter of events in Egypt was then, and continues to be, its military. In the parliamentary elections of November 2011, the long-suppressed Muslim Brotherhood took almost half that body’s seats. In June 2012, the Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Morsi, became the country’s first elected president, winning a runoff race with just under 52% of the vote.
That August, Morsi made the move that would eventually doom him, replacing his defense minister with Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. He also quickly turned in an increasingly autocratic direction, issuing decrees granting himself more power and proposing a new constitution that would do the same (which was approved by more than 60% of the voters in a low-turnout referendum).
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