Wall of fear is cracking, says Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Tamim Elyan
5 Min Read

CAIRO: Egyptian-American dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim, urged Tuesday the middle class and political parties to take responsibility for making change in Egypt, hailing US demands for democracy in the Middle East.

"The past five years have witnessed unprecedented mobilization in the Egyptian society; however, bringing the wall of fear down was the most remarkable change," Ibrahim said in a meeting with researchers and experts at Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies.

"Protest action in Egypt echoes in the Arab World and even internationally; it’s now the responsibility of political parties to maintain these gains by uniting and offer an alternative to the current regime," he added.

Ibrahim also hailed former IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei’s campaign for change as it revived the Egyptian political and social scene, saying it resembles US President Barack Obama’s campaign as the core support for it comes from youth.

A report issued by the center titled "Civil Society and Democratic Transformation in the Arab World" said that Egypt hasn’t recorded any progress in democracy but is going through a transitional period that indicates major change.

"Current events on the Egyptian political scene are an expression of how large sectors of the Egyptian society are convinced that the current regime is responsible for their current state now which obliges them to struggle for change," read the report.

The report provides indices of democratic transformation in 18 Arab States according to the variables of executive authorities and political parties, judicial authorities and arrests, civil society and freedom of organization, media and freedom of expression, religious freedoms as well as women and minorities’ rights in 2009.

It cited a setback in anti-corruption measures, human development, religious freedoms, freedom of expression and civil society organizations in Egypt compared to previous years.

However, the report highlighted a major development in women’s rights through the issuance of a "women quota" allocating 64 seats for women in the next parliamentary elections.

According to the report, groups calling for change in Egypt should involve masses of Egyptians in political entities that would "organize, mobilize and move them."

"Political activity can’t be isolated from social structure; it’s now the responsibility of the middle class to fill the gap between the 2 percent who control power and wealth and the poor 50 percent through democracy," said Ibrahim, founder of the Ibn Khaldoun Center.

The report cited the absence of any progress regarding democratic change in Arab states despite slight improvements in issuing several laws that protect public freedoms.

"In most Arab countries, the situation regarding democracy hasn’t changed much; on the contrary, voices demanding democracy are decreasing in number," said Mohsen Abdel-Meseih, co-author of the report.

"Most protests are categorized as factional protests, for example suffering workers, none of which has the power to steer the wheel toward democracy," he added.

"The United States and the West are very interested in a democratic Middle East since [the governments] would be predictable, accountable and negotiable contrary to the stereotype that they prefer authoritative regimes to protect their interests," Ibrahim said.

The report also discussed the state of minority groups in the Arab world.

It cited 11 major sectarian incidents between Muslims and Christians in Egypt attributing the phenomenon to the absence of the rule of law. It also cited progress in the Bahai file, citing official recognition that allows followers of the Bahai faith to acquire national IDs. But it also referred to public intolerance as seen in attacks on Bahai’s in Sohag.

In the Arab World, Algeria, Saudi Arabia — which witnessed its first case of convergence from Islam to Christianity— Syria and Bahrain were the countries recording high levels of sectarian unrest compared to Sudan and Iraq, according to the report.

"The way minorities are treated is an important indication of democracy since democracy guarantees the rotation of power between various groups which replaces violence as a way to achieve demands," Abdel-Meseih said.

"Arab governments deal with minorities as a security file rather than a political one," he added.


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