Egypt Joke

Quote

Egypt’s current situation can be summed up by one jokey quote doing the rounds just now:

“Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak all tried to get rid of the Muslim Brotherhood. Only Morsi succeeded.”

UPDATE: Yesterday, the army gave President Morsi 48 hours to resolve the crisis before they would “take responsibility.”  They later denied this would amount to a coup, but it has been speculated that it would involve removing Morsi from power – perhaps replacing him with a technocratic government before holding new elections.  It’s a fair bet to say that the Muslim Brotherhood would find their popularity diminished in such hypothetical elections.  These protests have been seen as a setback for – and perhaps even a rejection of – political Islamism in the region. Either way, the next day will be crucial for determining the direction of Egypt’s future.

You can see a live stream of Tahrir Square, the focus point of Egypt’s protests, here.

Turkey Protests

Over the past five days, Turkey has been taken aback by mass protests in most of its major cities.  They were sparked by plans to redevelop Gezi Park in Istanbul, but considering protests have since erupted in Ankara, Antakya, and other cities, it is clear that this has developed into something larger.  Tens of thousands of protesters have been out on the streets, day and night, in what appears to have become general anti-government protests against Prime Minister Erdoğan, who has been in power since 2003.  Unions have also called for strikes in solidarity with the movement.

I was rather surprised when I first heard the news of this – I’d always thought Turkey to be a fairly democratic country.  Sure, mass protests do happen in democracies – just look at Greece, or Italy, or Spain – but they never seem to have quite this level of intensity, or when they do the government usually swiftly resigns.  Democratic countries also tend not to react so violently – tear gas and water cannons have been deployed, resulting in many clashes between protesters and the police in which several people have been injured and even, I think, a couple of deaths.  That said, Turkey appears to be showing some restraint – they have allowed protesters to gather inside Gezi Square, who have set up a barricade around it and now effectively govern themselves, and also the Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc has apologised for the use of excessive force.

If I understand it correctly – and I know very little about Turkey – the protestors are mainly young, liberal, secularists who oppose the creeping Islamisation of Turkey under Erdoğan, which they argue is against the principles established in the 1923 constitution when the country gained independence.  An example of this is his crackdown upon alcohol consumption.  The protests are also against his increasing authoritarian nature.  There are fears that he seeks to change the constitution to a Presidential system in order to increase his own powers, and he has also been criticised for his power over the media.  It’s no wonder he hates Twitter so much.

I’ve seen a few comparisons between Turkey and the Egypt Revolution in 2011 since the protests began, but I’m not sure how comparable the countries are.  Egypt certainly was far more authoritarian than Turkey is now, with Mubarak having led the country for three times the amount of years Erdoğan has led Turkey.  FreedomHouse gave Egypt a freedom rating of 5.5/10 in 2011, whereas Turkey in 2013 has 3.5/10 (with 7 being ‘not free’).  There may be similarities, but my guess would be that Turkey’s future will not be as dramatic as Egypt’s.

Incidentally, one of the most ironic points to come out of this is the advice Syria has given Turkey over the issue, urging Erdoğan to resign.  Turkey doesn’t seem to have taken Syria’s advice (which I can’t blame them for; Syria’s not exactly who I’d ask for advice to successfully stop protests).

It is impossible for anyone to predict how this situation will end, particularly not someone as misinformed as I.  But I think the protests will result in concessions from the government, and perhaps even Erdoğan’s resignation, though that’s not hugely likely.  He is still believed to have the majority of the country behind him.  The protests could fizzle out, but I think they will have some lasting impact upon the country.

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2013 Predictions

Finally, gonna end this busy day with a list of predictions for next year.  I didn’t plan to publish these – I was writing them for my own interest – but decided to give it a shot, in case miraculously they’re all correct, so I can prove I predicted them!  Rather rushed:

  • UK
    • Our next Holy Monarch of Divine Highness to Rule Over Us All Forever blah blah will be born.  Everyone will go nuts and the republican minority will grumble.
    • The coalition will continue on its path, though plans to create individual identities for the parties will become clearer in preparation for its end.
  • Abroad
    • The war in Mali will see some form of conclusion: Northern Mali will return to government control.
    • The Assad regime will fall.  Failing that, the rebels will increasingly control Syria.  I expect them to receive more support from the West and the government to lose Russia’s backing.
    • Obama’s next year as President will not be dramatic.
    • A war will not start over Iran.
    • Angela Merkel will be re-elected in Germany.
    • Libya will finish its transition into democracy on paper with success.
    • Egypt will head down its route of democracy with a very Islamic tint.  Morsi will bring stability to the country – at long last.
    • Berlusconi will not be elected in Italy.
    • The Afghanistan campaign will appear more and more hopeless.  Peace talks with the Taliban will develop.
    • I expect more crises from North Korea.
    • Iran’s economy will continue to plummet under sanctions.  Possibility of something dramatic happening.
    • This is a completely wild one: Robert Mugabe will no longer be in power in Zimbabwe by the year’s end.
    • There will be at least one coup.  And likewise, at least one country considered a dictatorship will become more democratic.
    • Burma will continue down liberalisation and democratisation.
    • Hugo Chavez: difficult to predict.  I’m gonna throw this out there and say his health improves and he’s able to continue as President.
    • Al Shebab will be almost completely pushed out of Somalia.
    • More than two Arab countries will see increased protests and violence.  Potentials: Syria, Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Sudan, Egypt, UAE, Jordan, Lebanon.
    • Julia Gillard will no longer be Prime Minister of Australia.
    • Putin will consolidate his dictatorship in Russia.
    • The Mars Curiosity Rover will make more discoveries which fail to interest the public.
    • Netanyahu will be re-elected in Israel.

Morsi Rescinds Decree

President Morsi of Egypt has rescinded the decree he enacted several weeks ago giving him wide reaching powers, more powers than even Mubarak ever had.  This is clearly in response to the unrest that has plagued the increasingly divided country since his decision.  Although a victory for the opposition and Morsi’s critics, it will not go far enough.  The reason Morsi took these powers in the first place was in order to rush through a constitution which many claim is biased towards the views of the Muslim Brotherhood, and so in that respect his aims have still been fully achieved.  The opposition will be continuing to demand that the constitutional referendum is postponed and for fairer discussions over the drafting of the constitution.

So welcome news, but the crisis hasn’t ended yet.

Thoughts on Argo

Contains Spoilers.

 

Earlier today I went to see the film Argo at the cinema.  I had a vague idea of what it was about, having seen trailers, and thought it would be worth seeing to expand my knowledge of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the following hostage crisis.

So I was therefore disappointed that the film began in the aftermath of the revolution.  I suppose this is down to not researching it enough as any synopsis would have told me this.  I did appreciate a cartoon-style history at the beginning to explain the events leading up to the revolution, however.

Argo begins during anti-American protests outside the US embassy, unnervingly reminiscent of events just a year ago.  This shocking display of senseless violence kicks off the film with a particular tone of chaos and fear.  The image of terrified diplomats watching the mob break into the complex is one of the most striking images from the film.

However, Argo soon loses this tone for a lighter one, as the CIA contemplate how to rescue six diplomats who escaped and are hiding in the Canadian embassy, after being inaccurately turned away by Britain and New Zealand.  Although not to my taste, the comedy scenes during planning the bizarre scheme – involving a fake science fiction film – to rescue these diplomats were done well.

Events regarding the diplomats holed up in Canada’s embassy are portrayed in much detail, if glorifying the role of the CIA, but very little is told of the fifty-six other diplomats being held hostage in the embassy by Islamic students and militants.  The film is interspersed with scenes showing them held at gunpoint in the embassy, and a very chilling scene showing a mock-execution, but very little is explained or mentioned about their predicament – leaving me initially confused.

The use of suspense in Argo  makes this a film to be watched from the edge of a seat – I barely took breath as the car carrying disguised diplomats drove through a demonstration – which really causes the audience to experience their feelings of terror.  There are many points in which characters are faced by an angry and dangerous mob, or security forces are seen plotting, which is made all the more intimidating by not providing subtitles over the Persian language, so we English speakers must infer their intentions from the threatening body language.

Overall, Argo is a great film.  It isn’t what I expected, but is not the worse for that.  It should not be seen solely as entertainment nor as historical education, but a blend which combines elements of both to make a highly watchable film which also teaches the audience bits and pieces of the Iranian Revolution.  Not a ‘must-see’ film, but definitely worth watching!