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No dignity for Egyptians
No dignity for Egyptians
No mechanism exists to truly hold the Egyptian regime accountable to the people. The regime is rather concerned with the powers that sustain its long-standing rule: the military; the businessmen who support the government and are, in many cases, members of it and of the NDP; and foreign allies, namely the US and Israel, notes Sara Khorshid.
Wednesday, November 11,2009 15:59
Middle East Online

No mechanism exists to truly hold the Egyptian regime accountable to the people. The regime is rather concerned with the powers that sustain its long-standing rule: the military; the businessmen who support the government and are, in many cases, members of it and of the NDP; and foreign allies, namely the US and Israel, notes Sara Khorshid.


The latest train tragedy in Egypt, a collision that killed 18 and wounded tens, wasn’t surprising; it came following a series of fatal train accidents, the most deadly of which was in 2002 when a train fire killed over 373 third-class passengers.

For many Egyptians, such accidents signify the government’s negligence and disregard for the lives, dignity and rights of the marginalized majority.

In the scene of last month’s tragedy, one survivor was seen shouting, with his body and face covered in blood: “Till when will our blood be cheap in this country? Till when will they treat us like dogs? Isn’t it enough that my wretched father is suffering day and night to afford my university expenses?” as reported by Hany Salah El-Din in Al-Youm Al-Sabei newspaper (October 28).

There was no official mourning for the dead, which reminded Egyptians of the day when President Mubarak’s grandson passed away in May: He was mourned by all state-run TV channels and most of the private channels owned by businessmen, which suspended their programs and aired Quran recitals and religious songs.

The train collision refreshed sentiments that are deep-rooted among Egyptians. From catastrophes such as the thousands of annual road deaths (6,000 according to WHO statistics), to day-to-day abuses as trivial as the frequent officials motorcades that cramp ordinary citizens in long waits with no regard to the value of their time; and from routine violations by police officers with no arrest warrants, to human rights crimes as severe as torture — disrespect for the humanity of Egyptians is evident.

Dissent comes only in reaction to major incidents of interest to public opinion, such as the 2006 sinking of a ferry that killed 1,000 Egyptians.

“The government and the rich are squeezing ordinary Egyptians. They’re telling us we’re useless. ... People’s lives in Egypt are cheap. ... they put the dead in garbage bags and marked them as ‘unknown bodies,’” Tareq Sharaf, whose wife and four of his children capsized in the Red Sea, told the LA Times. The ferry’s owner, who was President Mubarak’s appointee to parliament, operated the ill-fated ferry despite his knowledge of its defects. Before being sentenced to seven years in absentia, he escaped to London, reportedly with the help of senior officials.

Many, like Sharaf, are hopeless, with little to do to obtain their unvalued rights.

Never in contemporary history have Egyptians chosen their rulers; a 1952 military coup by the Free Officers suspended Ottoman rule of Egypt but brought to power three military presidents, none of whom was chosen in free and fair elections.

No mechanism exists to truly hold the regime accountable to the people. The regime is rather concerned with the powers that sustain its long-standing rule: the military; the businessmen who support the government and are, in many cases, members of it and of the NDP; and foreign allies, namely the US and Israel. As novelist Alaa Al-Aswani pointed out in a recent column in Al-Shorouq, in order to please the US and gain its silence and assent while Gamal Mubarak is being groomed for the presidency, Egypt has made more concessions to Israel since 2005 than all it had provided after the Camp David Accords.

Decades of tyranny during autocratic rules, following centuries of foreign occupation, built an inferiority complex that have led Egyptians to feel like strangers in their homeland. Many lament that even foreigners are treated better that citizens in Egypt.

No wonder why scores of Egyptians seek to immigrate. But the question is whether immigration will be the only way out or whether the disillusioned masses will finally rise up for their rights. Will they make change happen, breaking from the theory of some intellectuals that Egyptians give in to oppression and silently endure injustice, while temporarily protesting to major instances of despotism from time to time before going back to accepting the status quo.

Till this day, Egyptians continue to be stripped of their dignity, standing still vis-a-vis corruption, lawlessness, and unfair distribution of power and wealth between a small rich circle and a disadvantaged majority, whose patience may not be guaranteed for long.

Sara Khorshid is an Egyptian journalist who has covered Middle East politics, culture, and society for the past seven years. Her articles are published in Alarabia.net, Common Ground News Service, IslamOnline.net, and other media outlets. Until July 2009, she was the managing editor of IslamOnline.net’s Politics In Depth section.

tags: Dignity / Egyptians / Signify / Dignity / Negligence
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