The CSS Blog Network

Egypt’s Innocent Murderers

Tahrir Square at night.

Tahrir Square, 3 June 2012. Photo: Jonathan Rashad/flickr.

CAIRO – “Bashar should abandon power and retire safely in Egypt. The general-prosecutor is murder-friendly,” a friend, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, told me as we watched former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s trial in the Police Academy’s criminal court. Although Mubarak and his interior (security) minister, Habib al-Adly, were handed life sentences at the conclusion of their trials, the generals who ran Egypt’s apparatus of repression as deputy interior ministers were acquitted.

Hasan Abd al-Rahman, head of the notorious, Stasi-like State Security Investigations (SSI); Ahmad Ramzi, head of the Central Security Forces (CSF); Adly Fayyid, the head of Public Security; Ismail al-Shaer, who led the Cairo Security Directorate (CSD); Osama Youssef, the head of the Giza Security Directorate; and Omar Faramawy, who oversaw of the 6th of October Security Directorate, were all cleared of any wrongdoing. Lawyers for Mubarak and al-Adly will appeal their life-sentences, and many Egyptians believe that they will receive lighter sentences. » More

The Elephant in the Brotherhood’s Living Room

The Elephant in the Room, Image: David Blackwell/flickr

Ongoing protests in Cairo have cast a shadow on the inauguration of Egypt’s first democratically elected Parliament, making it clear that the country is still merely at the threshold of achieving a successful transition to democracy. Hovering above the heads of many protesters remains the fear of military rulers not willing to step down from the political arena, and given the military’s core interests, this apprehension would not appear misplaced. Meanwhile, the question of how the Muslim Brotherhood will actually grapple with the burden of government responsibility once in power is predominantly worrisome to liberal Western governments and to Israel in particular.

Considering the Brotherhood’s long history of being in opposition and primarily functioning outside the political realm, this is a highly relevant question. Starting in the 1920’s as a social movement, the organization has built up its strong popular base mainly by avoiding direct government confrontation and providing efficient social services to Egyptian citizens at the margins of a repressive government. Having originally operated in the shadows of Hosni Mubarak’s corrupt regime, the Brotherhood’s grass roots approach has now borne fruit in the form of votes at the ballot, and the people are skeptically waiting to be served. The ever-evolving nature of the Brotherhood seems to be standing at the crossroads once again, having to compromise between pragmatism and ideology, a choice that is likely to determine Egypt’s future at least in the short term. » More

A Specter is Haunting Western Policy-Makers

Photo: Steve Paulo/flickr

Much to the chagrin of Western governments, Egypt’s first elections since the overthrow of Mubarak’s regime in February are unlikely to yield a secular democratic government. Receiving an estimated 65 percent of total votes, Islamist parties consolidated their gains in Egypt’s second round of multistage parliamentary elections held on December 14-15, achieving yet another landslide victory that is unlikely to be reversed in the third and last round of voting in January. Although not fully surprising, the marginalization of liberal and secular forces at the ballots has caused notable uncertainty among Western states when it comes to formulating foreign policy options towards Egypt and the Middle East more generally.

Governments in both Europe and the US have been understandably reluctant to voice premature concessions in the face of a probable coalition government dominated by Islamist parties. To be sure, even though the Muslim Brotherhood and the Al-Nour Party, the political wing of the Salafi movement, do not share a fully congruent ideology, they are both in favor of implementing Sharia law. The dilemma is obvious even despite the political outcome in Egypt. What remains is great ambiguity in how political Islam would actually be implemented once the relevant factions seize power, and whether this would be compatible with the stipulations the revolution has fought for and, moreover, Western ideals of self-determination and human rights. » More

Jack Goldstone on Theories of Revolution and the Arab Revolutions of 2011

The game is over for Mr Mubarak and Mr Ben Ali. Photo: Wassim Ben Rhouma/flickr

On Thursday 10 November Ralph Stamm and I attended a CIS lecture by Jack A Goldstone, the Virginia E and John T Hazel Jr Professor at the George Mason School of Public Policy. Mr Goldstone has done extensive research on revolutions and social movements and has closely followed the recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, which were at the center of his talk “Not 1848, Not 1989: Theories of Revolution and the Arab Revolutions of 2011.”
As the title suggests, Goldstone’s talk compared the revolutions of 1848, 1989, and 2011. At the outset, he gave his view of the likely outcome of the revolutionary processes in Tunisia and Egypt, both of which he identified as the clearest cases of genuinely revolutionary uprisings in 2011. While initially many people dreamed of creating perfectly functioning democracies and quite a few still fear the rise and dominance of radical Islamist movements, Mr Goldstone expects a middle ground: what he called “troubled democratic outcomes” in both countries.
He then compared the revolutionary periods of 1848 and 1989. In both of these cases, revolutions broke out in several countries in quick succession. While the uprisings were similar in many respects – in terms of mobilization tactics, for example – the outcomes differed. Why was this? Because revolutions never take place in a void: their social, political and economic context matters. In different contexts, we are likely to see different outcomes. » More

Media Disruption in Times of Unrest

Don't you dare take it away. Photo: Rowan El Shimi/flickr

The role that social networks have played in the ‘Arab Spring’ has been much-discussed in recent months, and many a Master’s thesis these days must be written on how the Internet – and social media in particular – is changing political dissent movements. Given the Internet’s ability to quickly disseminate information, and to allow like-minded individuals to find each other and mobilize support for a cause, one might assume that Facebook and other forms of social media would advantage popular struggles against centralized power — and that switching them off would be a tactic of choice among weary dictators.

Quite the opposite, says Navid Hassanpour, who has used a dynamic threshold model for participation in network collective action to analyze the decision by Mubarak’s regime to disrupt the Internet and mobile communications during the 2011 Egyptian uprising. » More

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