Three years after Tahrir, democracy eludes Egyptians

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Montreal, January 27, 2014 — CJPME laments that three years after the massive protests that eventually toppled authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak began in Tahrir Square, democracy is still eluding Egyptians. According to a January 23 Amnesty International (AI) report, at least 1400 people had been killed in political violence since the military ousted elected president Mohammed Morsi July 3. AI says that Egypt has witnessed “state violence on an unprecedented scale over the last seven months.” In addition, on Saturday, January 25, 49 anti-government protesters were killed, and another 1079 were arrested, according to media reports.

“The current situation is rooted in the coup, and is unlikely to improve until the military are forced from power and subjected to elected civilian rule,” says CJPME President Thomas Woodley. CJPME notes that in addition to the violence, the military government has passed a harsh anti-protest law, conducted mass arrests and shut down media outlets. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), since July, at least five journalists have been killed, 45 assaulted, 11 media outlets raided, and 44 journalists detained without charge in procedures that have at times continued for months. Among those detained are Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy—a respected former CNN journalist now working for Al-Jazeera—and two other Al-Jazeera journalists. CJPME urges Canadian MPs of all stripes to press the Egyptian government to rescind the harsh anti-protest law, release all journalists and peaceful protesters currently detained and allow democratic elections.

Earlier this month, a constitution reinforcing the military’s power was passed by 98 percent in a referendum to which the turnout was estimated by some independent monitors to have been as low as 11 percent. Drafted by a people appointed by the military government, the constitution does not allow the elected president to appoint the minister of defence and permits trial of civilians in military courts. It also provides guarantees for the military’s economic activities; the military currently control 30 percent of the economy. Transparency International noted that government officials openly promoted a vote in favour of the amendments, while private and public media provided one-sided coverage in favour of the draft constitution, and the government harassed, arrested, and prosecuted peaceful critics.

Liberal and left-wing politicians who had opposed Mubarak and also been critical of Morsi have found themselves marginalised since July. Nobel Prize winner Mohamed elBaradei, once seen as a potential presidential candidate, and Wael Ghonim, whose Facebook postings were instrumental in mobilizing anti-Mubarak protesters, are now in exile, and many other activists are in jail. The military crackdown has not, however, brought security to Egyptians. On January 24, an Islamist group based in the Sinai peninsula conducted four bombings in Cairo targeting police institutions, killing six people and causing panic among the city’s residents.

About CJPME – Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is a non-profit and secular organization bringing together men and women of all backgrounds who labour to see justice and peace take root again in the Middle East. Its mission is to empower decision-makers to view all sides with fairness and to promote the equitable and sustainable development of the region.

For more information, please contact Patricia Jean, 438 380 5410
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East www.cjpme.org

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