IOP Forum Discusses Violence in Egypt

In light of the recent violence in Egypt, panelists expressed their concern about a security vacuum in a fast-paced panel discussion at the Institute of Politics Thursday night.

Both Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American columnist, and Tarek Masoud, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, said that they agree that the military regime deliberately set in place a security vacuum to emphasize the need for strong government.

They said that Wednesday’s riots at Port Said soccer stadium that killed 79 people were evidence of the failure of the security sector.

“There was a problem and the police stood by and did absolutely nothing,” said Eltahawy.

Looking at the current government’s actions, Eltahway said that the structure created by Mubarak has remained intact.

“The Mubarak regime has not been removed. Mubarak has been removed” said Eltahway, referring to the current military government in power.

“We replaced one Mubarak with 19 other Mubaraks.”

Forecasting the future of Egyptian democracy, Masoud said that with Islamist parties controlling 65 percent of Egyptian parliament, a liberal, secular government is unlikely.

If non-Islamist parties are to secure a stronger position in Egypt, they will have to reach out more directly to the needs of the primarily conservative Egyptian population, Eltahawy said.

Still, Masoud said that he remains cautiously optimistic.

“This is the first time in Egypt’s history that it had a parliament that actually represents the will of the people,” Masoud said. “The next few months will be really critical, but we can’t say yet that the Egyptian revolution has failed.”

Despite the country’s progress, Elatahawy said that women still face significant discrimination in post-Mubarak Egypt.

According to Elatahawy, she was sexually assaulted by riot police last November and said that her situation was not unique.

“Hundreds of Egyptian women have been specifically targeted by the security forces and soldiers...but despite this systematic assault aimed at silencing and shaming us, Egyptian women continue to be out there on the streets,” Eltahawy said.

“We are out there every day...to tell parliament that we will hold them accountable just like we kept Mubarak accountable.”

While they said military rule and sexual discrimination still plague the country, the speakers discussed potential solutions to the country’s problems.

They said that options could range from letting the young revolutionary movement naturally produce its own leaders to raising a new generation of journalists willing to take risks to expose the flaws of the current system.

—Staff writer David Song can be reached at davidsong@college.harvard.edu.

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