Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ariel Dorfman on parallels between contemporary Egypt and Allende's military dictatorship in Chile

"After all the lives lost and sacrifices made, the hopes and aspirations, everything that led to the revolution in Egypt in the first place remains as is. The military owns 40% of the Egyptian economy. In a country of dire poverty and starvation, Egypt has the highest number of billionaires in the Middle East - second only to Saudi Arabia. Yet 1% of the population owns 90% of the Egyptian economy. The brutality of the security forces, which played a huge role in igniting the revolution, remains the same if not much worse. Corruption and monopolization of economic opportunities and access to capital remains the same. The few obscenely rich families that supported Mubarak's regime now support Sisi, and these are the families that own and control virtually all of the media outlets, telecommunications, construction and transportation industries. Even more, Sisi is working hard to reclaim Egypt's position as the playground bordello for indulgent sojourners from the Gulf countries"
Khaled Abou El Fadl

The Chilean playwright, novelist and public intellectual Ariel Dorfman notes here the parallels between the rise of Egypt's new President General Abdel Fattah el Sissi and another military dictator, former Chilean  general turned president Augusto Pinochet, who took power in Chile in 1973 in a US supported military coup which overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende.

Dorfman sees similarities between Santiago Chile in 1973 and Egypt 2014, in particular, a military coup which overthrew a democratically elected government (El Sissi led the 2013 military coup that overthrew the last democratically elected Egyptian leader Mohammed Morsi), followed by sustained bloodshed and a major crackdown on dissenters and opponents, resulting in the establishment of a military dictatorship.

As Khaled Abou El Fadl writes there are serious questions about the legitimacy of el-Sissi's 'make believe' election. 

The 2014 election took place against a backdrop of prolonged crackdown and oppression by the military, in which an estimated 40,000 political activists have been imprisoned, 3000 protesters killed and journalists imprisoned. The youth movement that inspired the 2011 revolution has been banned.

Khaled Abou El Fadl reminds us of the military's recent actions in the lead up to the election:
In November 2013, Egypt issued a new law that all but bans any and all protests. On 28 April 2014, the Court of Urgent Affairs banned the April 6 Movement - a movement that played an instrumental role in the 25 January 2011 revolution and the 30 June 2013 protests against President Muhammad Morsi. But after the April 6 Movement became critical of the military's repressive measures, the Movement was accused of "espionage," "defaming Egypt" and of undermining state institutions. Many of its members who played such an active role in bringing down Mubarak and in criticizing Morsi find themselves in prison on trumped up charges. 
Many of its members who played such an active role in bringing down Mubarak and in criticizing Morsi find themselves in prison on trumped up charges. In January 2014, American University of Cairo professor and former parliamentarian Amr Hamzawy was charged with "insulting the judiciary" because of a Twitter post criticizing a judicial ruling that closed down three non-profit educational organizations that promote democracy. Most recently, Bassem Sabry, who is well known for his blog Muwatin 'Arabi (An Arab Citizen), died under mysterious circumstances at the age of 31 - security forces claim that he "accidentally fell from his balcony."
Khaled Abou El Fad also reminds us that the US Government has committed its support and military aid has begun to flow to the military dictatorship. 

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