End of Jasmine Revolution, Beginning of Social Conflict
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
August 17, 2013
Summary: Some on Taiwan are comparing the White Shirt protests on Ketegelan Boulevard to Egypt's Jasmine Revolution. But the Jasmine Revolution is already ebbing. The military has ousted President Mohamed Mursi. The Jasmine Revolution has crumbled. The interim government's expulsion of Mursi supporters yesterday led to violent clashes and numerous casualties. The Jasmine Revolution left us with beautiful memories of peace. But it has now drawn to a close.
Full text below:
Some on Taiwan are comparing the White Shirt protests on Ketegelan Boulevard to Egypt's Jasmine Revolution. But the Jasmine Revolution is already ebbing. The military has ousted President Mohamed Mursi. The Jasmine Revolution has crumbled. The interim government's expulsion of Mursi supporters yesterday led to violent clashes and numerous casualties. The Jasmine Revolution left us with beautiful memories of peace. But it has now drawn to a close.
The recent wave of police evictions led to the death of hundreds. The Muslim Brotherhood has joined other groups opposed to the coup. It has launched an "Angry Friday" protest march, and will engage in more large-scale counterattacks. Muslims have also attacked and set fire to over 20 Christian churches throughout Egypt. As we can see, the crackdown is out of control. Egyptian society faces long-term confrontation and polarization. This is the most worrisome development of all.
The Jasmine Revolution overthrew the Mubarak regime. Egyptian politics then underwent two consecutive changes, both for the worse. The first was the election of President Mursi, who failed to live up to the public trust. Under his regime, Islam rapidly expanded its power. It forced through many policies that frightened secular society. Democracy regressed. The economy suffered. The second was the sudden interference of the Egyptian military in domestic affairs. It forcibly ousted Mursi. It used false pretexts to win democratic elections, undermining the legitimacy of the interim government. This is why Mursi supporters persist in their protests.
Scanning the faces of the crowd enables one to better understand Egypt's problem. The Jasmine Revolution was waged by relatively young, westernized men and women, fluent in English, accustomed to the Internet and mobile phones. Pro-Islam protesters are largely middle-aged men and women wearing traditional Muslim headwear.
This is not deliberate stereotyping. This is one country in which two different peoples coexist. Their living conditions are different. Their thoughts and concerns are also different. The Western media will undoubtedly pay much more attention to the former. The international community will undoubtedly offer it much more sympathy and support. The latter will receive much less international attention. But they vastly outnumber the former. They are Mursi's main support. Lest we forget, these two peoples are all Egyptians. They all want their nation to move forward. They all want international respect. More importantly, no matter who subjects them to repression, they all bleed the same blood.
During the Jasmine Revolution, the internal contradictions were not so obvious. People were unanimous in pointing the finger at the authoritarian Mubarak. But once the Jasmine Revolution succeeded, decades of expectations for democracy were crushed. All they received was Mursi's arbitrary rule and economic decline. The elites who instigated the Jasmine Revolution naturally concluded that Mursi hijacked their revolution. Similarly, when the military forcibly ousted Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood felt equally indignant. As they saw it, the Egyptian military hijacked democratic elections. Overnight, two consecutive waves of unrest split Egypt along religious and class lines, leading to political enmity, bloody repression, and unending hatred.
Egypt's Jasmine Revolution was universally lauded as a movement of public awakening, as a refreshing example of peaceful, rational, and successful protest. Who knew that two short years later, the situation would lead into nationwide unrest, public suffering, and social enmity, to the point where people have thrown up their hands in disgust. To overthrow a tyrant or two is not difficult. The true challenge is to create a long-lasting democracy that protects all its citizens. As the example of Mursi shows, it is easy for those who have tasted power to be carried away. It is easy for them to ignore the religious beliefs and values of those who differ. The military failed to give Mursi a chance to do better before it forced his ouster. It vigorously suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood. This too guaranteed that the country would descend into chaos. The masses on both sides blindly clashed, without regard for right and wrong, increasing antagonism and hatred.
Egypt's interim government has declared a one-month state of emergency. It has effectively returned to Mubarak era military rule. Such changes make those who cheered the Jasmine Revolution want to hide their faces. This paradoxes and institutional complexities of democracy demand closer examination. Mass movements can tear down powerful regimes. But they can also disrupt social order. Democratic elections can reflect public opinion. But they can also elect anti-democratic strongmen. A military coup can control abuse of power by a president. But it can also irreparably divide a society. Military repression can clear the streets of mobs. But it can also drive people to engage in street battles and resort to terrorist activities.
Without self-restraint, humility, and patience, one cannot establish a truly democratic society. This is what we have learned from Egypt's Jasmine Revolution.
2013.08.17 02:47 am