A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Growing Insecurities in Egypt

MEI will be holding its all-day conference on Egypt tomorrow, called "Securing Egypt's Future." I hope to see you there if you're in the neighborhood. But just how insecure is Egypt's future? I'm not sure certain aspects of this are being reported thoroughly, and I myself have been remiss as well. [UPDATE: Today the State of Emergency was extended for another two months.]

Did you realize, for example, that this railway-dependent country has been without nationwide rail service for a month? Shut down August 14 by the Interior Ministry after the breakup of the Muslim Brotherhood encampments, it's still shut down, or was as of yesterday. This may be an effort to deter a flow of pro-MB demonstrators from Upper Egypt into Cairo, but it also cuts the spinal chord of the country. It may be bureaucratic inertia on the part of the Interior Ministry, too.

And the media is fearful and increasingly toeing an official line. Bassam Youssef's satirical show has not yet returned to the air and many papers and TV channels are under fire or have been closed. Many, perhaps most, are Islamist, but liberal channels are also under fire.

Egypt's history and culture are also under fire. You may have heard about the looting of the Mallawi Museum at Mallawi in Minya Governorate, a repository of artifacts from Amarna and elsewhere (and much of what was taken is still unaccounted for), but did you know (as noted in the linked article) that also the villa and large personal library and archive belonging to famed Egyptian journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal was destroyed by fire, by Islamist mobs apparently, on August 15? I have lots of gripes about Heikal as a journalist, a historian, and in other areas, and the fact that he kept a lot of Nasser-era documents, apparently including some originals not found elsewhere, has been controversial, but the utter destruction of that archive greatly undermines the ability to document Egypt's already neglected modern history.

The blame is not on one side. The rail closures and the press pressures are the government's responsibility, while the attacks on cultural institutions came presumably from Morsi backers, either the Brotherhood or more radical groups. 

Meanwhile, attacks on Coptic targets may have abated but have not disappeared, while violence in Sinai has escalated. It is harder for many Egyptians to feel safe:
Holy Qur'an, Sura XII, Yusuf, 99:
فَلَمَّا دَخَلُواْ عَلَى يُوسُفَ آوَى إِلَيْهِ أَبَوَيْهِ وَقَالَ ادْخُلُواْ مِصْرَ إِن شَاء اللّهُ آمِنِينَ 

 And when they entered unto [Prophet/Patriarch] Joseph, he took his parents to him and said, "Enter Egypt in safety, if God wills."
إِن شَاء اللّهُ


Anonymous said...

Democracy apparently has been restored to Egypt.

David Mack said...

Lots of blame to go around. At front of the line, the liberals and Copts who welcomed the overthrow of the Mursi government and suppression of the MB could have chosen instead to organize themselves to throw out that incompetent regime in the scheduled elections. Now they appear either terribly naive or as co-conspirators with the deep state. As a former AUC student, it makes me weep.

Anonymous said...

A certain elasticity with definitions is no doubt a highly useful skill for diplomats.

Personally, I find it hard to conceive that a "liberal" would support a military coup or attacks on unarmed demonstrators.

Perhaps opportunist is a more apt and honest choice.

Those who have no realistic hope of attaining power through the ballot box usually resort to extra legal means to attempt to secure their goals.

David Mack said...

The revolution eats its own children. Editorial in today's NYT marks shows disillusionment of U.S. liberal establishment.

David Mack said...

Here's the URL for NYT editorial. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/13/opinion/who-will-be-left-in-egypt.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

T. Rice, Chicago said...

Ambassador Mack

An interesting article.

Two comments.

(1) I was shocked to see he NYT use a proscribed four letter word in its editorial. One that more genteel US politicians avoid -- C*up".

(2) I'd be interested in your and Mr. Dunn's assessment as to whether this development should be a surprise to Egypt's "liberals'. What was el Baradei thinking? And why noted scholars like Biblawi continue to participate?

S. Allende said...

As 9/11 demonstrates America loves democracy and will do anything to protect and advance it.

So this post and comments are fitting as the US and the world remember September 11, 1973.