When I first read the news about the multiple raids on the American NGOs here in my Egypt, I wasn’t surprised. I knew that SCAF is trying to shut down any source of pressure to let go of power and follow through on their promises to transition to democracy.
These NGOs’ primary work was to teach all the political factions in Egypt—including the Salafists and the Brotherhood—on how to run a campaign, how to draw a map of votes all across Egypt and how to expand a membership base. In other fair words, these NGOs were trying to build a foundation for a new and a real democracy here in my Egypt. Unfortunately, the SCAF—with its dictatorship mentality—saw this as a threat so they decided to crack down these nasty organizations and meanwhile also send a message to the US to back off.
I started to freak out when we saw the situation between Egypt and the US escalate these past few weeks, when my government put 19 American activists on the no-fly list and on trial because they were arrested on some very lame accusations about foreign funding. Then, the US government threatened to stop the 1.3 billion dollar aid it grants to Egypt if it didn’t release those activists.
Why did I freak out? My number one concern wasn’t actually about how the process of democracy is being slowly shaken and destroyed by the government. I have lived under tyranny for 30 years of my life, so I am both used to and immune to these political stunts. I can see that their conspiracy theories are really excuses not to address real issues—like the issue of our overcrowded prisons, filled with activists from all across Egypt. And now that they’ve run out of native Egyptians to throw into these prisons, they’ve turned to foreign blood to fill these cells. But no, this wasn’t my main concern.
My concern was: is SCAF really willing to lose the US support along with their aid?
To me, the alternative to Egypt receiving US aid is very scary and would have very serious consequences. The alternative donors would be Russia and China—countries who seem to find it cool to disagree on anything and everything the US wants, no matter what, including supporting Al Assad and Iran for no other reason than to piss off the US.
I am very worried that my Egypt may end up seeking Russian and Chinese assistance, what I’d call “joining the other club.” If you consider the consequences of Russian or Chinese support, you might see that this new club will likely lead my government away from democracy. Instead of encouraging democratic reform, they would probably give them tools to hunt and crack down anyone who asks for freedom or democracy. For that matter, I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine either Russia and China even sending advisors on how to shut down those who dare to ask for liberty and democracy.
In the end, the one and only good thing that showed a glimpse of hope is when all three judges withdrew from this questionable trial. When that happened, I knew that Egypt’s judges are still brave and just, it is very clear why they stepped down from this trial.
The US was wise and smart about this situation. They have sent their experienced, right wing politician Senator McCain, who came and met with everyone here in Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, he even tweeted about how the brotherhood was very helpful with this matter. This one tweet made the public here wonder about how the Brotherhood change their stands, because originally they had been in favor on the NGOs crackdown! So how can they at once claim to be in favor of cracking down on American NGOs but at the same time also see that Senator McCain left here very happy and pleased with their behavior. As I said before these guys are unpredictable.
The funniest thing regarding this matter is that the Egyptian PM announced that Egypt will never kneel down to the American pressure about letting their activists go home. Then, just a few days later on March 1st 2012, the American activists were indeed sent home on an American military plane. No one claimed responsibility for the decision to free the activists. The PM and his government announced later that they had nothing to do with the release, the police said the same thing and added that they were just following orders, the Minister of Justice also parroted these feelings, while the SCAF didn’t issue a word about who was or wasn’t in charge on the release.
In short, all of them washed their hands of this matter and we, the people, are left without a good answer to all of this.
Personally, my conclusions are as follows: the SCAF generals used this NGOs thing to send a loud and clear message to the United States. Then, they used the activists as a bargaining chip to get a good deal and issue some demands. From the start, the whole issue was a joke, which tells me that the future of my Egypt is very unpredictable and foggy.