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30 June and rights in Egypt

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What do Egyptians mean when they say they want their rights, Iris Boutros asks?

Iris Boutros

Iris Boutros

I must admit that I still do not know what to make of 30 June. I was standing on the sidewalk with a sea of my fellow citizens streaming by me waving flags and banners, celebrating the rights they fought so hard to win, still in the struggle for those refused rights they hoped to claim one day.

But I was not in Egypt. I was in San Francisco, California for its annual Pride Parade. And as I stood there thinking about my fellow Egyptians doing exactly the same thing on exactly the same day, I was left confused by what they mean when they say they want their rights.

Pride parades are a celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) culture that take place in dozens of countries on every inhabited continent of the globe. They also most often serve as a place to protest the legal rights denied to that community that are enjoyed by most other citizens in the same country.

And on 30 June, armed with all of the TV and online media images and my own experience of living through Egypt’s current revolution, I knew Egypt looked similar that day. Citizens were in the street fighting for their rights they felt were still refused under the rule of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and demonstrating the rights they had already claimed.

While on the surface, these two 30 June scenes, San Francisco and Cairo, looked similar: people in the streets celebrating and fighting for their rights. But what was indeed happening was not at all the same. And this is not because one scene was about LGBT rights and the other about “democratic and economic rights.”

It is about the definition of rights, and herein lays my confusion.

Recently returning to Egypt and seeing the general mood of and towards different entrenched parties, I have to wonder exactly what Egyptians mean when they demand their rights. Do these non-stop “calls for rights” post-30 June from across the wide political spectrum include the protection of the rights of the opposition?

Many citizens of the various countries that host pride parades often oppose them. They believe that these events are an attack on their religion and ideas about morality. But those in dissent, even if they represent the majority, do not get to make the decision about another citizen’s rights so long as a society has defined that right, like the right to free speech or the right to protest.

When a right is guaranteed, it cannot be stripped away by another except by more primary rights. The right to free speech is often muted, for instance, when the right to run into a crowded theatre and shout “fire” is superseded by the rights of those in the theatre to not be harmed in a stampede out of the theatre.

Right now in Egypt many are pursuing the fulfilment of their rights, and in the wide spectrum of opinion that exists, those are in conflict across groups. Guaranteed rights are defined by a society and protected by its laws. They cannot apply differentially across groups or circumstances. Not all societies choose to guarantee and protect the same rights.

So, I’m left wondering. What do Egyptians mean when they say they want their rights?

About the author

Iris Boutros

Iris Boutros

Iris Boutros is an economist and strategist. She focuses on growth, impact investment, and decision-making. Follow her on Twitter @irisboutros

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  • ozzzz

    To understand why the Egyptians turned against the MB was the many everyday infringements on their freedoms and culture. To witness a young man be cut in half by “the long beards” because they didn’t like his hair and the police admitting that there was little they could do. To be pulled over for a licence check and be questioned about your clothes, to be threatened by self appointed moral vigilantes,because you are talking to a someone of the opposite sex. Young women labelled as “bitches because they are not in the home or escorted by a male relative. To be told to turn music off especially if a woman was singing are a part of the many infringements on the freedoms of everyday people, especially the young.

    Having groups of young MB thugs run through shops stealing and threatening people (Sinai) and frightening off tourist and customers, car jacking, knife attacks by those who felt protected by the MB regime.

    Then there is being questioned about your faith because you are not a MB member, being labelled as a Zionist or a bad Muslim if you criticize the Government.

    Installing anti-tourism terrorists as tourism ministers, and MB members in high Government positions

    Coupled this with the lack of opportunity, a decaying economy, fuel shortages,power cuts then you have confirmation of the fears that were held about the MB rule.

    The people feared that if they waited for Morsi’s tern to end the goal posts would have been moved and they would have been powerless to do anything about it. This is a bottom up not a top down revolt, Egyptians were not prepared to have their lives dictated by the MB lest they end up like the people of Afghanistan under the Taliban. The MB had an opportunity to show the people that they were inclusive, they blew it, and the people held them to account.

    These are real accounts and these things happened to people I know, for such a huge movement to materialized it must have been a trend across the country affecting many Egyptian citizens.

    1 DAY AGOReplyLike

    arvay

    carmen_doyle

    This is actually a very positive development — I refer to the advanced attitude of especially the Egyptian youth — who, like the Iranian youth, would like to join the modern world.

    Regrettably, the MB will not go peaceably, and it’s reported that their top leaders have relocated to Gaza.

    The spectacle of an Egyptian (with israeli support, possibly) assault on Gaza emphasizes two things:

    – the failure of Hamas as a national liberation movement. Not only has it yielded to the sectarian idiocy being stirred up by the Saudis and loved by their Israeli friends, but it’s now bringing catastrophe on the Gazans. Perhaps there are some secularist leaders who can take control, even communists would be a vast improvement.

    – the non-viability of fundamentalist religious leadership. Morsi was unable to govern, and “Islamic” options for progress are as absurd as Pat Robertson’s calls for a “Christian” America — to deflect hurricanes and get a prosperous blessed economy. Things like “islamic” banking fall into this category.

    I’m certainly no expert on the topic, but some reading suggests that the Sinai insurgencies result from long-standing grievances that the central government might fruitfully work on, after control is established.

    Gamal Abdul Nasser was on the right track, and the opposition from both the US and its Israeli Rottweiler were predictable and damaging to the Egyptian people and nation. here’s hoping the new Egyptian revolution will step back on his path.

    1 DAY AGOReplyLike

    Ben Enki

    Traub and the other bright people who contribute to Foreign Policy fail to understand that under the economic, political, religious and military dimensions there is a fundamental truth: Overpopulation on a planet of rapidly declining ecological health makes any attempt at economic, political, religious or military solutions far more likely to fail.

    Neither democracy nor religion can do anything about the massive population increase that makes for impoverishment in Egypt. There is no economic “team” that can provide jobs to 20 million Egyptian. As water and food disappear … humans keep multiplying.

    Foreign Policy magazine claims to be a journal of international relations, economics, and blah blah blah. Neglecting the human population boom and declining ecological health leaves missing pieces to the puzzle.

    1 DAY AGOReplyLike

    arvay

    Ben Enki

    Bravo for this!

    People, especially Americans (who still live in a bubble, thanks to their bad education, incompetent and/or supine press and the influence of religion) seldom put this together with their thoughts about domestic and foreign events and policies.

    Liberals whine about China’s imposed one-child policy, but ignore the fact that it was necessary and effective in preventing the kind of crisis one sees in places like Egypt. As China’s middle class grows now, reports indicated that parents are voluntarily accepting the policy — to protect their new-found living standards.

    But that policy is not even close to adequate for the challenges we face as a species.

    Emergence of middle classes in China and India will create gigantic demands for power, air conditioning, infrastructure — all of which will have an enormous environmental impact. We can already see jockeying among China, Japan, Vietnam and other east and south Asian countries for access to local resources.

    The same goes for a place like Brazil, where Lula’s far-sighted social policies have also created increased demand, and the rest of Latin America — where people are as aware of what they are missing as the Egyptian youths are.

    Seen in a more balanced light, the kinds of eruptions we’re seeing in places like the Middle East are the product of awareness that a much better life is possible — a life that they’re prevented from enjoying.

    Balanced against this, we have the drastically imbalanced global distribution of wealth, health care, water, food and other resources that people need to have.

    This article neatly summarizes the problem in a few paragraphs

    http://www.moneynews.com/StreetTalk/living-growth-standards-global/2013/03/15/id/494870

    The projected growth of the human population to 7-10 billion is recipe for self-extinction. The usual “Mathus was wrong” cliches are irrelevant –Malthus did not and could not have foreseen today’s world. Or the geopolitical consequences of the future we face.

    Blythe assurances that technology will save everything are hopelessly utopian.

    The population problem is only one factor — but a radical one — in the growing instability we see. It needs to be solved along with all the other challenges we humans face.

    1 DAY AGOReplyLike

    goldeneye

    Ben Enki

    In the whole of the Western World, there is NO *population boom* and hasn’t been since forty years, wake up! If you only include the Arabs, then you might be right, maybe India or China…but just saying, “Baby Boom” is really laughable. From Russia to Canada, we are LOSING population hugely. No one told you this…?

    14 HOURS AGOReplyLike

    VivaEgypt

    I’m amazed mp by how is every one now has something or to say about Egypt. Unfortunately no one siad anything when Morsy overrode the constitution he swore to upheld. Every one kept silence when the young rebels were murdered one by one and their bodies were dumped on the streets. Every one turned a blind eye when women were sexually harassed in Tahrir square to scare them from coming demonstrating. In all its our problem and we will ally with the devil to fix it. Love it or go back to your old silence.

    1 DAY AGOReplyLike

    MohamedAbdallah

    VivaEgypt <<<we will ally with the devil to fix it …..

    this is exactly what you did , your ally with Military is an ally with the devil , but remember that this ally will not stand for a long and you will see .

    1 DAY AGOReplyLike

    MichaelFender

    "Morsy's single greatest mistake, in retrospect, was failing to put those fears to rest by ruling with the forces he had politically defeated" The secular forces have all refused important minister posts right from the start. While the media used the media freedom to orchestrate the counterrevolution

    2 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    cburket

    Not all liberal activists (of which I'm one) agree with the Obama Administration's attempts to whitewash the military coup in Egypt. Congress should immediately suspend all military aid to Egypt until there are free and fair elections.

    2 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    DanPearson

    the liberals in Egypt have simply realized that if the Islamic Brotherhood takes control of Egypt now, they will never relinquish said control, and Egypt will become an unfriendly to liberals Islamic State. Military rule, however, is not tenable long term and will eventually have to change.

    2 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    SamBacnbush

    that roadmap is hoks poks the future of democracy is dead we all know that the interim is killing the people in the streets and all the brotherhood party are in jail.

    2 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    SamBacnbush

    those people if they stayed home will be taken to jail that is why they took their children with them no body is helping them they are fighting for democracy alone they do not have another way so what they do with there children they have to have them

    2 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    NoBigGovDuh

    Protests are direct democracy, get over it. It is not a liberal thing, you just have a fetish for political power and hold it above all else.

    2 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    fathyashmawy

    Your over estimation of the strength of the MBH is misleading to your readers . More than half the numbers of the demonstrators are women and children !!. Bringing Children to this kind of demonstrations is against international laws. They stayed late into the night for weeks . Non of the international organisations in the West or western politicians have raised a voice in protest against the Muslim Brotherhood who are using these innocent children for their dubious political agenda !!! .

    I hope that some one in the so called Western democracies ,who has the moral courage,can speak on behalf

    of those children who are living is despicable conditions for the last 6 weeks .

    3 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    MujahidulIslam1

    fathyashmawy when you kill or put in jail the head of the family (traditionally the father) what would you expect from the Mums and the kids??? you man with out a spinal cord!!! Use your brain before it gets full with liberalismsssss.

    2 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    threadbarebridge

    by not able to call a spade a spade the Obama administration is picking up a rock and solidly whacking it on its own toes–the Egyptian as well as American people will be the ultimate sacrifice of such weak-minded pure nonsense.

    3 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    fathyashmawy

    You are obviously very sad to see Morsi and his lot booted out of office by the great Egyptian second revolution .

    We in Egypt do not give a toss to the likes of you or to your masters in the white house and congress!!! .

    It is a fact that the MBH came to power through a rigged voting and with the blessing of the US administration

    and SCAF . So please ,enough of this crab.

    3 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    YasserAbdallh

    in first day of Dr Morsy's in egypt i now the old system of Mubark they can't let him do iny thing goog for egyptian people and make any succes for our country ,and after Sisi coup on Civil president-elect in the first Egyptian experience witnessed by the world on the integrity must promises President Marsa and the return of the army to protect the borders and non-interference in politics because it is the prerogative of only civilians

    3 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    MohamedAbdallah

    What happened in 30th of June and next is an alliance of the former regime and the army and the liberals in Egypt against Islamists in general and Muslims brotherhood specially , but this alliance will not last long ,cause the concept which is build on was only the exclusion of Islamists from the power and not the interests of the people or the country like the social justice and freedom and human dignity which was all the solgan of 25th of January which we forget it now and we only talk now a bout terrorism and how we terminate this Islamic current which win any democratic election !! what I predict is a more harmony between the old regime lovers and the army and no more harmony with the liberals which will face the same destiny of MB , in case of this Military coup could stay any more .

    3 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    arvay

    There are, I think, two classes of American analysts.

    The first class knows that all the American bleating about "democracy" is a sham — as evidenced by massive and long-term American support for such figures as the Shah of Iran, Pinochet and Mubarak.

    Now "improved" by our domestic spying and other nullifications of our own Constitution.

    The second class somehow believes:

    – that American leaders actually believe democracy works everywhere. Easily disproved. See: Saudi Arabia.

    – that democracy can be applied, like low-dose aspirin — to magically salve geopolitical political angina anywhere.

    Despite clear evidence that nations as varied as Russia, Egypt and China have long-standing inclination toward authoritarian rulership and view it as a route to stability. So Putin, for example, has much more popularity than Obama — precisely because he appeals to Russian Slavophilism rather than liberalism.

    Seen in a more realistic light, the Egyptian army's response to 30 million Egyptians flooding the streets to call for the end of the Muslim Brotherhood's bunglehood is a response to popular will in the context of Egyptian society, as it is — without utopian eyeglasses.

    It's also difficult to see how the army's move against islamism is a problem. Most Egyptians are Muslims and for sure want to see their government reflect their religious convictions — just like many Americans do. But it's refreshing and encouraging to see that they don't want a theocracy.

    This is also good for the Palestinian national liberation struggle: the less oriented it will be to religious leadership, the less vulnerable it will be to the kind of sectarian divisions the Saudis and Israelis create for their common purposes.

    One more thing: the IMF.

    This is a creature of the vulture capitalists of the world, and Egypt can for sure obtain all the funding it needs from its multiple suitors without hocking itself to these vampires. The sooner what the US considers the international economic order is disassembled — the better it will be for most of the people on planet earth.

    3 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    threadbarebridge

    arvay as ideologically biased as ever, arvay! (that, in spite of the rosy lenses you use to look at yourself.)

    3 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    arvay

    threadbarebridge

    Please identify the ideology at work. The answer will tell me much more about you than me.

    As for looking at myself — I always admired the late Andrei Gromyko's statement — " I have no interest in my personality."

    2 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    threadbarebridge

    arvay

    your tones jars my ears, that's all. i'd rather stop here, but to one that has no ideology all your mambo jumbos are ideologue speechifying, which brand is of no interests. your personality? even to bring it up shows you have no understanding.

    2 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    arvay

    threadbarebridge

    LOL.

    You have failed to understand my reply, or answer my question. Or write a correct English sentence. Mambo jambos, the dance craze of the Levant.

    LOL.

    2 DAYS AGOReplyLike

    goldeneye

    arvay threadbarebridge

    He just knows what an incredible moron you are…vicious hater of the West, go live in NoKo.

    14 HOURS AGOReplyLike

    Concerned Observer

    Well said.

    4 DAYS AGOReplyLike

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