First elected democratic regime, a lie?

Sunday, January 20, 2013 4:51 PM 
Human Rights Activist and Psychiatrist Aida Seif Al-Dawla*
Any views expressed in this piece are those of the author and not of Aswat Masriya.

Wrote :Aida Seif Al-Dawla

We have our first democratically-elected civil president and we had our very first fair presidential elections. The elections of the dissolved People's Assembly (lower house of the parliament) were said to be transparent. The Shura Council (upper house of the parliament), whose dissolution was one of the top demands of the revolution, is also considered to genuinely represent the people. 

We witnessed fair democratic elections, but we must bear in mind that they were not real elections as only seven percent, at most, of eligible voters participated in the ‘democratic’ process.

Moreover, the assembly which wrote our constitution reviewed it in less than 48 hours after the withdrawal of some of its members. The referendum on the charter took place without publishing its draft in the official gazette, without an official document presented to the public.

But in the end, word has it, it is a constitution drawn up by a committee elected by the people.

However, despite all the claims of democracy and in spite of all the ballot boxes, a group other than the elected one controls the political scene. A group with economic and political interests that effectively controls the lives of Egyptians.

The elected institutions such as the presidency and the parliament cannot take actions and decisions that affect that group.

You may think that I mean the Muslim Brotherhood... but the Brotherhood is new to power and is yet to establish itself in authority. I am talking about a group that is more powerful, more stable and much older.

I am talking about the armed forces.

The current regime is keen on naming the new constitution the revolution’s constitution. However, that constitution preserves the military institution, giving it political and economic privileges.

The ‘elected regime’ is loyal to the armed forces, who are not only capable of holding funds and providing them with equipment and human capital, but also ousting the Brotherhood regime.

The constitution has an article stating that the armed forces belong to the people, and also states that their mission is to protect the country and preserve its security and territorial integrity. It does not however specify the identity of the "enemy" they are meant to protect the country from.

Based on the constitution, the budget of the armed forces has special immunity; it cannot be discussed in the 'elected' parliament.

This is an area confined to the military alone even when the state supposedly loans one of its institutions it does not reveal the source of the loan nor the conditions of lending or those responsible for it, as if the armed forces is a state within the state.

The matter does not stop at their unconditioned economic independence from the state, their authority overrides the authority of the rest of the citizens.

According to the constitution, the military judiciary is also independent, it is allowed to try civilians when it sees that its interests are at stake.

What are those interests? What are their limits and who decides them?

The constitution does not provide an answer to these questions, it leaves them to be determined by the law, which will be discussed by the “National Council for Defence” as the ‘elected’ parliament is not entitled to discuss it.

If we were not familiar with the details of this law, we are now witnessing its application firsthand in the trial of the people of the Qarasya Island.

They are Egyptians living in the poorest conditions on a land in the middle of the Nile who the armed forces had decided that they are not worth living there. So the army attacked the people, occupied their land, killed at least two of them and arrested dozens who are now being tried before military court on charges of assaulting military land!

Military rule still stands as long as they still dominate the country's economy, as long as they try civilians before their own courts, as long as the constitution guarantees their immunity from accountability, as long as their leaders are free and even awarded with medals and senior positions instead of bringing them to justice for the torture and murder they committed and the arbitrary arrests they made once they assumed power from their ousted president.

The atrocities done by the armed forces to the people in Sinai are yet unrevealed to us even after they handed the country over to the 'elected' president, yet what happened in Qarasya is an indicator to who is truly running Egypt.

For all the foregoing reasons, the revolution's will to overthrow the regime is not complete until we overthrow the rule of military, even if they are ruling from behind the scenes.

Aida Seif al-Dawla*

Aida Seif al-Dawla, a prominent human rights activist and psychiatrist, is a professor of psychiatry at Ain-Shams University.

Seif al-Dawla was involved in Egypt's student movement in the seventies, and for three decades, she has actively fought for human rights in Egypt and the Middle East. 

She is one of the founding members of the Nadim Center for the Psychological Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence (The organization was established in 1993 to be the first and only organization of its kind in Egypt).

In addition to that, she helped establish the New Woman Research Center and is an active advocate against female genital mutilation.

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