Violent conflicts escalate in Egypt
Published: Sunday, September 1, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 1, 2013 14:09
Though it has been two years since the ousting of Egypt’s former leader Hosni Mubarak, the political future of the country remains uncertain as political clashes continued to engulf the nation this past summer. In July, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was elected last year as Egypt’s new president, was removed from office in what some declared a military coup.
Political science professor Muqtedar Khan said he does not think the region has much of a chance of avoiding further issues, at least in the short term.
“The prospects [of a stable democracy in Egypt] seem dim in the near future,” Khan said in reference to the current tumult in and around Cairo.
On Aug. 19, judicial authorities announced they were releasing Mubarak from incarceration where the ailing 85-year-old former leader is being held for retrial on charges of embezzlement and conspiracy to commit murders during the 2011 protests that resulted in his ousting.
The judicial announcement, which now places Mubarak on house arrest, came after days of bloody military crackdowns targeting pro-Morsi and anti-military protesters across Egypt, setting up what British reporter Ian Black, in a column for CNN, called “unprecedented polarization” between the two camps following the military’s removal of Morsi in July.
Since the 2011 revolution, the United States has threatened numerous times to withhold annual aid. The suspension of aid to Egypt is being determined on a “case-by-case basis”, according to a statement released by White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest.
According to Khan, the current protests were facilitated and structured by a combination of the “old guard”—Mubarak supporters, many wealthy businessmen—the military and security forces as well as religious minorities who feared a Muslim Brotherhood-led government would lead to an imposition of Islamic ideology and governmental policies. During the year Morsi was president, over three hundred citations were handed down for “insults against Islam.”
Khan said he believes Egyptians—especially those in the minority religious groups—want to see less religious ideology and policy as part of their government and protests will continue as long as the two are linked.
“Is it fair to expect the transition to democracy to be accomplished so quickly and so completely?” Khan said.
He said he wondered why Americans, as well as citizens of other states, are so fascinated by the situation. The turmoil is similar to the same type of transitions that have taken place in several other parts of the world, including in South America and Europe, he said.
“At the moment, the biggest goal is to see a cease in the violence and some sense of stability,” Khan said. “The military needs to create a roadmap to transition, including when and how the constitution will be rewritten, when elections will be held and how the military will cede power to elected officials in order to begin to end the violence.”
Youth, many not older than undergraduates, have played a large role in the protests. According BBC News, Tamarod—or “rebel” in Arabic—is the largest youth coalition in Egypt, and was one of the biggest voices responsible for triggered the protests leading to the ousting of President Morsi. In late July, the group announced a rally supporting the military’s takeover of the government. Tamarod and other youth groups have clashed in recent weeks over the military’s role in the government, suspension of the constitution and other issues.
Though a group of university students did travel to Egypt in 2011, the university does not currently send students to the Middle East for study abroad, Lisa Chieffo, associate director of student programming for the Institute of Global Studies, said.
“We have no study abroad programs in Egypt—or even in that region of the world, for that matter—and no plans to initiate any,” Chieffo said.
Sharon Witherell is the director of Public Affairs for the Institute of International Education, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to managing scholarships, training, exchange and leadership programs. She conducts research and facilities policy dialogue on global higher education and protecting scholarship around the world.
For the 2011-12 school year, there were approximately 2,200 Egyptian students enrolled in higher education in the United States, about 1 percent more than in the 2010-11 school year, despite the Arab Spring in 2011. Witherell said she believes the crackdowns in Egypt will not play a big role in the educational opportunities available to Egyptian students hoping to study in the United States, at least for the 2013-14 school year.
“[Students] would likely already have had their visas in place before the recent events,” Witherell said.
IIE senior HR manager for the Middle East and North Africa region Abeer El Shafei confirmed Witherell’s statements, adding that despite the recent events taking place in the surrounding area, student visas had not been affected.