Connect to share and comment
OVERVIEW: Why citizens are battling the military in the streets ahead of scheduled parliamentary elections.
CAIRO – In the autumn of the Arab Spring, Egyptians fear they’re losing their revolution.
That is, if it ever really was a revolution.
As the country braces for next week’s scheduled election, people from the urban sprawl of Cairo to the rural reaches of Upper Egypt are left wondering if the so-called “January 25 Revolution” wasn’t actually a popularly supported military coup.
The events of the last four days have proven how difficult it will be for the ruling military council to relinquish its power and permit what Egyptians hope will be the first free and fair elections in Egypt in more than 60 years of military-backed autocratic rule.
Since Friday, thousands of demonstrators, from both religious and secular parties, have converged on Tahrir Square to protest the military’s attempts to put forward a constitution that would shield the armed forces from oversight and in effect shape the powerful military establishment as a state within a state.
“We need a road map to rescue Egypt.”~Sheikh Gamil Alan, dean emeritus of al-Azhar's law school
Amid running street battles to control Tahrir Square, which reportedly have left more than 20 people dead and hundreds wounded, there is some question as to whether the Nov. 28 parliamentary election will go forward as planned. But there is no question that this first election since deposed President Hosni Mubarak was toppled nine months ago presents a fateful moment for Egypt’s 80 million people who represent the heart of the Arab world.
For 10 days in October, GlobalPost pulled together a team of 17 talented, young journalists — eight Egyptian reporters, eight Americans, and one Egyptian editor who helped lead the project — to fan out across Egypt and report on where the country stands in the run up to the election. They set out to find the human stories that provide context amid the spikes of violence that keep occurring as Egypt tries to find its way forward to a new democracy.
These journalists were part of a GlobalPost reporting fellowship titled “Covering a Revolution,” which was sponsored by the Open Hands Initiative, a New York-based non-profit dedicated to “people to people understanding around the world,” as OHI Chairman Jay T. Snyder describes its mission.
Working together in teams, these Egyptian and American correspondents found compelling human narratives about the big questions of the day in Egypt:
*What is the role of the military in a new Egypt and will it allow for a peaceful transition of power?
*What role will religion play in politics and in defining the new constitution?
*What role – if any – has art played in the spirit of the revolution?
*With a slow return of tourists seemingly underway, is the economy as bad as it seems?
*And a question that looms imminently, and perhaps precariously: Will the elections be peaceful or marred by corruption and violence as they have so often in the past?
The Nov. 28 election marks the beginning of what seems to be a chaotic and clumsy series of elections and runoffs over the next two months that will ultimately give shape to a new parliament.
That newly elected parliamentary body — both the upper and lower houses — will be part of a process that will adopt a constitution next year in advance of a still unscheduled presidential election.
During the last nine months since Mubarak was toppled, the military has remained in charge through the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
The weekend protests opposed attempts by SCAF to try to control the process of shaping a new constitution and specifically to shield the military’s budget from civilian review.
The military, which was widely seen as heroic during the revolution, has turned heavy handed in recent months, and political candidates and analysts say they fear the military is showing signs that it will thwart a transition to civilian rule, a promise it has made publicly to the Egyptian people.
Our GlobalPost reporting fellows documented how the military has brutally put down demonstrations and how it has forced some 12,000 civilian protesters to face military tribunals, a violation of the military’s judicial authority which has outraged human rights activists, such as Human Rights Watch’s Heba Morayef.