Unbelievable. Syrian refugees come to Egypt, home of the Arab Spring, thinking that will be the one place where they would be safe from the madman running their own country, who declared war on his own people for having the same kind of protests the Egyptians had back in 2011…and the Egyptians respond this way.
Listen to this bit from The Guardian’s article: “Since Morsi’s fall, Egypt’s new government has turned away hundreds of Syrians from its borders, at times sending whole plane loads of refugees back to their airport of origin. Widely watched Egyptian television hosts have threatened Syrians with hate speech – all because Syrians have become unfairly associated with Morsi’s hated Muslim Brotherhood.” Kind of warms your heart, doesn’t it? This new Tahrir revolution seems to have all the right values. Not.
Let’s be honest. That’s another really clear reason why the anti-Morsi protests are certainly not an unqualified good thing. If anything, it may be a good argument they are a bad thing. It might be a good argument the anti-Morsi protests are really anti-Arab Spring protests.
We already have the leader of the Egyptian military, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, openly asking the Tahrir II protesters for a clear mandate to go pursue and capture terrorists, by which he means members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The only question is – what terrorism? President Morsi’s government was responsible for no acts of terrorism. If anything, its worst crimes were not being able to offer a serious policy response for the poverty that still afflicts most Egyptians. But terrorism? Does someone have an example? I heard nothing about bombs going off in city centres (as they have recently in a certain city in the US, or as they have more routinely been doing in cities throughout Iraq). I’ve also heard nothing about armed squads gunning down people simply for being opponents of the government (as, of course, we have heard about over and over and over again in Syria for the past two years).
In short, the terrorism charge is baloney. Morsi may not have been my favourite politician, but he is no terrorist and no evidence has been marshaled to prove otherwise.
The odd thing is, in nearby Tunisia, armed squads _have_ assassinated two prominent opposition leaders – the leftist Chokri Belaid and the national populist Mohamed Brahmi. You would think Tunisians would be interested in their own version of Tahrir II because of that. So why hasn’t it happened?
Maybe it’s the kind of insight one has when there are real acts of terrorism going on in one’s own country that prevents that? The Ennadha party, the Tunisian equivalent of what Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party is in Egypt – that is, the party of the Muslim Brotherhood – has declared the killings of Belaid and Brahmi to be attacks on the democratic transition in Tunisia. They didn’t make excuses because Belaid or Brahmi were not Muslim enough, and they didn’t give aid and comfort to their killers. They came out swinging against it. Most Tunisians saw that, and credited the government for its behaviour. As the New York Times put it: “Even Ennahda’s critics acknowledged that the government was showing greater maturity.”
Really, the main reason for the difference in perception is that Ennadha got in as part of a minority parliamentary government – not having a majority means they have to cooperate with other parties, and since that cooperation is happening, liberal and secular Tunisians see there as being some “real democracy” in Tunisia. However, most Egyptians voted for Morsi for President _and_ for his party in the legislative elections. If they didn’t support Morsi, they voted for the even more hardcore Islamists in the Salafist al-Nour Party. Together, the two Islamist parties form a majority in the legislature. Consequently, Egyptians got a government that behaved as if it got its mandate principally from the hardcore religious.
So now, more liberal and secular Egyptians are out in the streets trying to bring his government down. What they should have learned instead is to take their vote seriously and organise for the next election. Their message to Egyptians should be to tell them not to vote for parties that will do the opposite of what they want.
We can all argue about whether Egyptians are taking the requirements of their new democracy seriously until we’re good and tired. But one thing is clear. Certainly none of the protesters in Egypt deserve our sympathy so long as they would turn on people fleeing the Syrian bloodletting instead of dealing with those requirements. That’s despicable, and it profanes the real spirit of Tahrir.