By Ian Marsh
Published: October 29, 2013
The Wolfe Institute held a talk last Monday entitled “Egypt at the Crossroads,” featuring Abdalla Hassan, an Egypt-based journalist, and Brooklyn College history professor Louis Fishman.
Hassan, who graduated Brooklyn College in 1994, currently lives in Egypt and reported on the actions and protests swarming the country in the moments since its revolution. He also spoke about those living in highly violent areas and the government’s involvement.
“Democracy is a learning process,” he said. “We need to create a grassroots movement and not look to the army for help.”
Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was deposed in July by the Egyptian military following protests against his rule. Many of his supporters have been killed in confrontations with police after his overthrow.
The latest events surrounding Morsi’s overthrow and the violence against protesters are particularly disturbing to Hassan. The military is currently in control of the government and has said it will institute a route to democracy.
“The protesters didn’t ask for a road map,” Hassan said. “They asked for early presidential elections.”
A Facebook page in memory of Khaled Said—a young man who was brutally beaten to death by undercover police after witnessing police brutality—was the starting point of the revolution.
Hassan added that a movement soon developed the slogans “Bread, Freedom, Social Justice, and Human Dignity.”
Hosni Mubarak was also overthrown in Egypt after mass protests, which were covered heavily in international media.
But since his initial overthrow, Egypt has experienced violence and series of power grabs, which destabilized the country, according to Hassan.
“Right now Egypt feels a little like America after 9/11. People want the government to ensure security,” Hassan said.
He adds that such feeling makes it unlikely for the original demands of the revolution to be fulfilled in the near future.
Professor Fishman responded briefly to Hassan’s talk, saying that Turkey, with a functioning democracy, could partially be a model for Egypt going forward. Fishman lives in Turkey part-time and studies Palestine during the late Ottoman period and contemporary Turkey.
He explained that Turkey’s history is completely different from Egypt’s, so it could not be seen as a direct model for Egyptian democracy. He argued that the Turkish democracy is not necessarily one to strive for, as 8,000 people have been jailed recently under anti-terror laws. However, there are some lessons that Egypt can take from Turkish history.
Current president of Turkey Tayyip Erdoğan succeeded in wresting power from the army. The army played a dominant role in Turkish politics throughout the nation’s recent history. In doing so, he had the support of liberals, which Egyptian resident Mohamed Morsi’s party the Muslim Brotherhood did not have.
Fishman finally added that Egypt might need to question its country’s past. Egypt, like Turkey, once had a military dictator who was revered, but now is seen differently in light.
As both Fishman and Hassan speak on the heavy topic, they both still appeared to be in waiting for a revolution, which remains unfinished. This includes Brooklyn College English professor Moustafa Bayoumi, who awaits more events in Egypt to unfold.
“I’m still waiting for the Egyptian revolution,” he said.