This piece was written by Colleen Fonseca, STAND’s Emerging Conflicts Coordinator. Colleen is junior at St. John’s University in NYC and can be reached at colleenfonseca 7 at gmail dotcom. Read the first half of this two-part piece here.
“We’re all one hand and our demands are one: a country by the people. ” The voice of Ramy Essam fills the eardrums of Egyptians in an intense emotional scene from the documentary The Square. Essam, labeled the unofficial song-writer for the revolution, is profiled with five other characters from January 2011 to July 2013 in Egypt. Through the eyes of Khalid Abdalla, Madgy Ashour, Ahmed Hassan, Ragia Omran, and Aida El Kashef we are given a unique glimpse into the Egyptian Revolutions. During such a pivotal moment in international history, the take-aways from this film are almost more significant than the film in it’s entirety. A profound and intimate testament to the “utopian aspirations” of it’s revolutionaries, we come away from the film eager and anxious about the future of Egypt.
The eagerness and anxiety that we have as an audience are reflected in each character’s consistent anxiety over the status and future of their nation. Despite the various opinions they shared, they agreed that the existing traditions of leadership must be revised and reconsidered. As Egypt again moves into the direction of democratic elections, we must critically look at the events that have transpired in the past few years. The revolution and evolution of Egypt are critical in this time as soaring unemployment and increasing poverty creep into the Egyptian vernacular. Critical decisions are necessary in order to prevent complete social and economic collapse, and yet who will be making these decisions? With recent announcements for presidential nominees and rumors circulating that Egypt’s former Minister of Defense and current Field Marshall al-Sisi will be running, this is a critical time for Egypt. Despite the lack of confirmation, posters of al-Sisi have sprouted throughout Egypt, raising suspicions of the beginning of a presidential campaign. Would we continue to see the army held above a functioning and democratic constitution? What would a potential transition from a military leader to statesperson mean for the future of Egypt?
Despite the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) performance in President Morsi’s regime, achieving a truly democratic government is impossible without their inclusion. Under the control of Mubarak, the Brotherhood was not even able to practice and was extensively repressed. Excluding a political movement as organized and ingrained in civil society as the MB would only produce further instability. The Brotherhood’s large and devoted population was made very apparent in the last month, as supporters demonstrated and coordinated massive sit-ins. Many Islamists, who were not previously affiliated with the political group, have joined in on the protesting. By reviving the suppression against the Brotherhood, some worry vicious rule may return.
In Egypt there still remains a dangerous possibility for more and continuous violence. The same dysfunction that prevented a vibrant democracy under the Morsi and al-Sisi regimes’ rule will continue unless deep political reform is achieved. A violent confrontation seems somewhat imminent as both sides mobilize, and violence ravages the streets of Egypt. The issues will not be quickly solved, and sustainable reform has to happen for the political system to thrive, not just an election of parliament and the president.