On Tuesday 1st October 2013, The Cordoba Foundation hosted a closed-door high-level roundtable on the crisis in Egypt. The roundtable brought together representatives from the High Commissions of several Southeast Asian countries, and expert political reporters and analysts. The aim of the roundtable was to discuss the current situation in Egypt and to explore the role that the international community, in particularly Southeast Asian countries, could play.
The roundtable opened with an update on the current political and social situation in Egypt and a briefing on the key events which led up to the current crisis. Starting from the 25th January 2011, a series of protests were held across Egypt which called for social justice and demanded the overthrow of the regime of Hosni Mubarak. The ‘Revolution of the 25 January’, as it came to be known, resulted in the formation of a civilian state which was later dissolved on 3rd July 2013 when the opposition, fronted by the military,overthrew President Mohamed Morsi. Most recently events have included: a court ruling to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood as an NGO and banning it from carrying out any activity in Egypt (which includes the social services that the socio-political group provide: schools, hospital and charities), and the freezing of all Muslim Brotherhood assets. For further details about this, please click here
There has also been a clampdown on freedom of expression: the detaining of anyone calling for democracy which includes the detaining of at least 70 minors (Human Rights Watch); freedom of assembly: a series of attacks carried out by security forces on Muslim Brotherhood led protests which were held under the banner of the ‘Anti-Coup Alliance’in which over 6.000 people have been killed and over 15,000people have been injured; and freedom of press: 7 media outlets have been shut-down.Participants highlighted that the acute humanitarian conditions are indicative of the return of both a security state and an oppressive regime.
Participants in the roundtable applauded the role of The Cordoba Foundation in facilitating forums for such discussions, and pointed out that peace in Muslim countries would mean prosperity for the entire Muslim Ummah who, as a demographic, represent amajority in a number of Southeast Asian countries.
The representatives from High Commissions of the Southeast Asian countries expressed their hopes that the Egyptian military would carry out the road map that they proposed: which promised fair elections and a new and more inclusive government. However, they added that if the military failed to deliver on this then the international community would have the scope to change their stance. It was pointed out by participants that at this moment in time the military were not showing any goodwill signs to fulfilling their promised road map which is illustrated by not inviting the Muslim Brotherhood to join any ministry or the constitutional committee.
Participants expressed the was a need for key regional players, like Saudi Arabia, to change their political positions on Egypt in order to ensure a more unified international approach. It was mentioned that from the outset Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states miscalculated and antagonized the Muslim Brotherhood. Participants put this down to a number of reasons including: the superficial reading of the ‘Islamist’ label which generalised political Islam and the threat that democracy posed to the Gulf monarchs who, because they feared their own demise, took an active role in reversing the progress of the elected Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It was argued that such regional players may reconsider their viewpoints if they were made aware of the real situation ion the ground in Egypt andobjections to their stance on Egypt by the public and key religious leaders. However, by taking local politics into consideration, one can question the impetus with which to work to muster people; Saudi Arabia, like many Gulf states, have large repression campaigns in which many people have been imprisoned because of their freedom of expression on social media. For more information, please click here
Participants of the roundtable acknowledged that there has been a muted response by the international community, which could be partly down to turn of events in Egypt occurring at a time when many governments had adjourned for their summer recesses. In addition, participants also expressed the importance of the international community to agree on and address the following issues:
– Failures in human rights and the need for investigations into the atrocities committed
– The freedom to protest
– The safety of president Mohamed Morsi, protesters and political prisoners
– Release of imprisoned academics
– Media control
– The freezing of the assets of the Muslim Brotherhood as a political group, and their freedom to campaign
– Promise of fair and free elections
– The fear of the revolution of the poor because of the state of the economy