Was The Arab Spring Bad For Egypt?
Violent protests in Egypt have been ongoing since 2011 when President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown and put on trial. Has the country improved since ousting Mubarak? What's the current state of Egypt?
17 Protestors Killed On Uprising Anniversary
On Sunday, at least 17 Egyptians were killed as protestors marked the anniversary of the 2011 popular uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. The death estimates were compiled by Egypt's Health Ministry, as protests took place all across the country. From a checkpoint near the pyramids (where two policemen were killed) to Alexandria to downtown Cairo, security forces and gunmen fired on protestors. Some protestors threw Molotov cocktails and others chanted, "Down with military rule." Security forces made a point to block off access to Tahrir Square, which was the epicenter of the massive protests four years ago.
Oppressing Minorities, Limiting Free Speech
The crackdown over the weekend sheds light on the hardline military rule wielded by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt's current president. Sisi, a former army general and advisor to Mubarak, seized control from Mohamed Morsi in 2013, amid major political protests against Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood party. Since taking power, Sisi has overseen an increase in harassing and prosecuting dissenters and minority groups, including atheists, Christians, and gay men.
On Tuesday, three activists lost their final case in an Egyptian appeals court. Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma, and Mohamed Adel will now serve three-year sentences for their involvement in the 2011 uprising. In another case, on January 10, a court in Beheira sentenced 21-year-old Karim-al-Banna to three years in prison after he declared he was an Atheist on Facebook. Similar cases have been brought against Christian Egyptians. Although Atheism is not explicitly illegal, authorities can bring charges pertaining to blasphemy and contempt of religion.
Human rights groups say Egyptian courts are also targeting gay men at an alarming rate. According to activists, more than 150 gay men were put on trial in 2014. While same-sex relationships are not technically forbidden, prosecutors were able to draw on Egypt's "debauchery" laws.
Four years after Egypt's historic popular uprising, the state of affairs seems to have returned to status quo, as a military general leads the country with strict enforcement to conformity. The tone seems markedly similar to the days under Mubarak's autocratic rule. As Alaa Lasheen, an engineer and protestor told Reuters, "The situation is the same as it was four years ago and it is getting worse. The regime did not fall yet."
Egypt's Unprecedented Instability by the Numbers (via Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
"Egyptians have suffered through the most intense human rights abuses and terrorism in their recent history in the eight months since the military ousted then president Mohamed Morsi."
Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations (via Congressional Research Service)
"Between 1948 and 2014, the United States provided Egypt with $74.65 billion in bilateral foreign aid..., including $1.3 billion a year in military aid from 1987 to the present."
BBC Profile: Hosni Mubarak (via BBC)
"Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt for almost 30 years until he was swept from power in a wave of mass protests in February 2011."