Egyptian unrest continues two years after the Arab Spring
This week marks the two-year anniversary of the Arab Spring protests that rocked Cairo and toppled the government of Hosni Mubarak. But unrest and violence has continued as police and the court system lose credibility amongst Egyptians.
Egyptian Army Chief and Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi warned Tuesday that there would be a "collapse of the state" if protests and unrests continue in cities across the country.
This comments came two days after Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi declared a one-month state of emergency and night curfews in Port Said, Suez, and Ismailia, after police lost control of the cities.
David Kirkpatrick, Cairo bureau chief for the The New York Times, says police have also lost all credibility with the people. On Tuesday, people in Cairo were in shock after an attack at the Intercontinental Semiramis, a hotel near the U.S. and British embassies.
"Some kind of criminal took advantage of the chaos to break into the lobby with guns to shoot it up and trash it and the manager from inside the hotel was calling for help, calling the police, who didn't respond." he said.
The manager then sent messages out through Twitter, and in response a number of protestors gathered outside the hotel. Police arrived and drove off the criminals while the protesters escorted the hotel's guests to another hotel.
"(Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi) said very poignantly that the political, social and economic problems around the country threaten the integrity of the state," he said. "His point was that the military is still the backbone of the state and will stand behind it."
That isn't to say that there will be another military takeover, but rather that civilian leadership needs to get it together, Kirkpatrick said.
In Port Said, people took to the streets over the weekend after a court sentenced 21 young men to death over a soccer riot a year ago. The court isn't credible to the protestors, Kirkpatrick says, because the court system has been politicized.
"(The court) handed down a whole bunch of clearly and obviously political rulings, including, in the eyes of many Egyptians, letting off the perpetrators of the killings of civilians during the uprising against Hosni Mubarak," he said.
The structure of the government hasn't really changed for Egyptians, Kirkpatrick says, and for many people on the ground it makes sense that the revolution should continue with increasingly violent means.
"There have been a complicated series of transitions at the top, turning over power to a bunch of generals and then to the elected leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, but below that, the old state is still in place," he said.
The general breakdown in security creates a sort of green light for people to settle their disputes through violence, Kirkpatrick said.
"If you start the clock today and you look at the situation that President Morsi is in, his credibility and the integrity of the state depends on enforcement of laws," he said. "At the same time, he has a police department that may or may not follow his orders, that may or may not follow the orders of it's own interior minister that is untrained, unsophisticated and inclined to excessive use of force in the first place."
Morsi doesn't have a police force at his disposal that only arrests perpetrators and gives everyone a fair trial.
"When the police fails, you say, 'OK, state of emergency and a curfew.' When that doesn't work and people disobey the curfew, you say, 'OK, I'm calling on the military,'" Kirkpatrick said.
But after Morsi called the military, people remained on the streets defying the curfew, the state of emergency and the military.
There's a failure of leadership among the broader Egyptian political class, the Muslim Brotherhood and it's opposition, Kirkpatrick said.
"Both sides are failing to come together, failing to address the situation, failing to speak with any real credibility to the people on the ground," he said.
But the unrest may get resolved, Kirkpatrick says, and the military could play a role in getting there because it retains credibility with the Egyptian people.
"But I don't want to go too far in guessing what the next step is going to be," Kirkpatrick added.
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