Mass death sentences have been handed down to 528 Morsi supporters in Egypt this week. The hope of the Arab Spring seems to have descended into chaotic tyranny in a spectacularly quick period of time.
The west applauded the Arab Spring as an extension of the democratic ideal when it first burst onto the scene in 2010. Tahrir Square in Egypt and Green Square in Libya became symbolic of Democratic successes in the modern day; they reinvigorated our faith in democracy with spurring images unseen since the fall of the Berlin Wall or the inspirational acts of ‘tank man’ in Tiananmen Square.
But this symbolic success is crumbling. Libya is still fighting sporadic rebellions and internal factionalism. Egypt’s military has reversed its support for democracy by supporting the coup against democratically mandated President Morsi. These revolutionary breaks from tyranny seem to have descended into despotism at lightning speed. The democratising success of the internet-which was widely seen as the impetus for the revolutions- has led to even more draconian regimes to enter the corridors of power.
…The West aided insurmountably to Libya’s freedom…
Revolutions are a tricky balancing act. You must shake off the shackles of constraint and fight for that glorious light of freedom, but then there is the harder bit; you must establish institutions to legislate, regulate and construct a new society. The West aided insurmountably to Libya’s freedom, and encouraged the rebellion against Mubarak in far less military terms, but it has stood idly watching these countries try to instigate fully fledged democracy without crucial foundational institutions.
Egypt’s mass death sentence is clear evidence of the weak foundations of this fledgling democracy; some sources claim the trial lasted an hour; defence lawyers were prevented from presenting cases whilst the prosecution did not implicate individual defendants. This is not a democracy. Egypt is falling into a military dictatorship scarily similar to the one they broke free of only a few years ago. What should we do about this? Perhaps offer guidance following the chaos of a revolution. These are not grounds for militaristic intervention, but they are eerily reminiscent of so many revolutions; the Twentieth Century is scattered with examples of commendable revolutions becoming the evil they fought against; Indonesia, Ghana, and Pakistan are clear examples.
…we can hardly claim a mastery of this concept…
Democracy is a relatively new idea in its modern incarnation. Universal suffrage has not existed in the UK or the USA for a century yet, so we can hardly claim a mastery of this concept. But the concepts of rights and justice have become crucial components in our democracy, and it is these fundamental rights of self preservation, freedom from torture and the right to trial that we should encourage.