Just last month, for instance, a headline by the New York Times read, "Egypt Promises to End Crackdown on Nonprofits." In this case, the SCAF raided the offices of 17 NGOs involved with Democracy promotion and human rights, seizing "documents, computers, and other property." Despite the "outrage" expressed by Obama administration officials and a personal phone call from US President Obama to Tantawi, the Los Angeles Times reports that the SCAF has nonetheless "increased interrogations and harassment of the groups and hinted that they may pursue criminal charges against them." What’s more, "Egyptian officials also proposed a law this week that would sharply tighten official control of nongovernmental groups." That way, the next time the SCAF wants to intimidate a nonprofit and steal $100,000 from it, its actions will have a veneer of legality.
The SCAF has also failed to live up to the public’s trust in regards to freedom of speech. On April 10 of last year, Maikel Nabil was sentenced to 3 years in prison by a military court --the first trial of its kind after the fall of Mubarak-- for a blog post entitled The Army and the People are Not One Hand. Alaa Abd El Fattah, another prominent blogger and activist, was detained in October by the military for allegedly inciting protests against the military following the tragic events at Maspero.
Abd El Fattah has since been released on bail, and Tantawi has announced that Nabil and another 1,959 Egyptians convicted by military courts under the SCAF are set to be released in the coming days. While this may seem like a step in the right direction, it's important to note that Tantawi's announcement was suspiciously close --just four days prior-- to the revolution’s one-year anniversary. The timing suggests it may be nothing more than a futile attempt at appeasing a restive and critical Egyptian public ahead of planned protests on the 25th that are sure to be massive. Moreover, the release of 2,000 prisoners is a pittance compared to the more than 12,000 convicted by military trials since the SCAF assumed power in February, "more than were processed during the entirety of Mubarak's 30-year dictatorship."
And then there are the true crackdowns, in which, in the words of Human Rights Watch (HRW),
The military used excessive force and carried out arbitrary mass arrests in various cities to disperse demonstrations and sit-ins on numerous occasions—February 25, March 9, March 23, May 16, July 22, and August 1—beating and tasering those arrested.
As HRW's 2012 World Report recounts,
On April 9, military officers used rubber bullets and live ammunition to break up a sit-in opposing SCAF’s rule, wounding at least 71 protesters, one fatally. On October 9, during the dispersal by military police and riot police of a protest of Coptic Christians in front of the state TV building in Cairo, at least two military vehicles ran over and killed 13 protesters and a further 24 were killed by live ammunition. Military prosecutors are overseeing the investigation into the incident, a conflict of interest likely to reinforce military impunity.
Sadly, this just scratches the surface. One could go on and on, citing media blackouts, virginity tests, and multitudinous allegations of torture. So it seems that, for now, the revolution has failed. It swept one dictator from power only to leave in place a military junta that has been just as --if not more-- brutal than Mubarak.
It doesn't seem like life under the SCAF will change any time soon. The military rulers have not only retained the abhorrent Emergency Law but have expanded it to criminalize certain kinds of strikes. But there's still some hope amongst the public, however faint, that come June, the SCAF will peacefully relinquish power to whomever Egyptians elect president. However, it remains to be seen, even if that peaceful ceding of power does take place, how much oversight and accountability either Parliament or the new President will have over the military.
Last month, American journalist Joseph Mayton, like so many thousands of Egyptians, was detained on dubious grounds and mistreated by his captors. He ends his harrowing account with this:
This appears to be the new Egypt, where the military has become the government, the police and the torturers alike. My neck and back may still be in pain, sore from the early morning beating I received, but as I write, Egyptians continue to brave military attacks down the street. They are fed up with military rule, and it is time the world stands with the Egyptians who want change. They fought the Hosni Mubarak government, which was replaced by the military. Now they are continuing the unfinished revolution.
I hope Mayton is right, and the revolution is merely unfinished, not failed. Here's to another year of hope.By Nathan Patin, Aslan Media Columnist