THE death of Mohamed Morsi — Egypt’s first democratically elected president — while ignominiously shackled inside a courtroom on Monday comes as a shock.
It shows that the hopes and aspirations inspired by the Arab Spring have been dashed, and that the old, repressive order very much dominates in Egypt and other parts of the Arab world. Morsi reportedly collapsed while addressing the judge; activists said he had not been receiving adequate medical care during the six years he was in prison. The former president faced questionable charges of espionage, and during his long incarceration, he was allowed to meet his family only a few times. Even his burial was a tightly controlled affair, with only a handful of family members permitted to attend his last rites; his widow was reportedly barred from participating.
Mohamed Morsi’s nearly year-long rule over Egypt was far from perfect; there was criticism he was going too fast where the implementation of his Islamist-rooted agenda was concerned, and there was genuine public discontent. However, remnants of Egypt’s ancien regime took advantage of the public protests, and soon enough, the generals moved in to send Morsi’s elected government packing.
Yet, it is perhaps unfair to pass judgement on Morsi’s performance after only a year in power, especially considering the fact that his strongman predecessor Hosni Mubarak held on to the reins for three decades. Had the late president been allowed to complete his term, the democratic process might have continued, and Egypt would have been a different, more stable place today. Unfortunately, the gains made during the Arab Spring have nearly all been reversed, and today, under Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s watch, it appears as if the Mubarak regime never went away.
There are reports that around 60,000 political prisoners are locked up in Egypt’s jails, though it is a number that is difficult to verify. Journalists have been arrested in the country while democratic activity has been severely stifled under the Sisi regime. In short, the bad old security state of Hosni Mubarak is alive and well in today’s Egypt, as the country’s economy tanks and hopes for representative rule fade. Morsi’s rise was unexpected, as the academic worked his way up the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood to become his country’s first elected leader. His fall was tragic, with his untimely end arguably hastened by the ignominies heaped upon him by the Egyptian establishment.
Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2019