TW: graphic depictions of state killings
Mouin Rabbani has an excellent run-down of the major developments over the course of the past three years of the “Arab Spring” which you can read in full over at Jadaliyya. The key bit, however, is his third point, which I’ll reproduce in full:
“[W]hile the Muslim Brotherhood may yet emerge victorious in Egypt, the increasingly widespread opposition to it signals not so much a disillusionment with Islamism as it does a revulsion for any attempt to establish and practice unfettered power. These uprisings are first and foremost about establishing the rights and rites of citizenship as inalienable and indeed inviolable. Any attempt to once again make citizens servants rather than masters of the state will require massive force and subterfuge to succeed.”
Rabbani was careful to hedge his assessment in the prediction of extensive resources being required to prop up the existing government, without noting that the government is nothing if not cash-strapped, among other issues. Likewise, he has done an excellent job of pointing out why Mohamed Morsi’s presidency is unlikely to last, but has failed to specify which arenas he was thinking of when he spoke of “unfettered power”. Still, the current example of the Sinai Peninsula makes starkly clear the economic, political, social, and regional dimensions of inequality in Egypt to this day, particularly in the light of how support for Morsi’s presidency is likely receding.
To provide some background, the Sinai Peninsula was by no means against Morsi’s victory in the relatively narrow final round of the presidential elections in June. North Sinai, which contains the vast majority of the peninsula’s population handily provided Morsi a 22 point lead. While the far less populous South Sinai, in contrast, broke for his opponent, it provided Ahmed Shafik with his smallest advantage of governorates he won, with his lead being fewer than two hundred votes. While it’s a statistical stretch to credit Sinai with Morsi’s election, it’s clear that he enjoyed a healthy degree of support, at least among those who participated in that final round of elections.
But as recent, excellent, and gruesome reporting by Al Jazeera shows, Sinai’s economic and political status within Egypt seems to be defined by exploitation or exclusion. The more pronounced social conservatism of its primarily Bedouin population and the consequent security-influenced response of the Egyptian state to nearly every major event in the region reveals additional social and regional dimensions to Sinai alienation from the existing state. Surely, the environmental, economic, and political struggles faced by many in Sinai are common to many in Egypt, but the additional complicating elements seem to be accelerating distaste for Morsi’s presidency to profound levels across the peninsula.
(The view of Egyptian-occupied Sinai from Israel-occupied Palestine, from here.)
Morsi’s presidency seems destined by its failure to clearly end the failings of the Mubarak regime to be radically reformed, quickly ended, or beleaguered into irrelevancy. Sinai is merely the canary in the coalmine with the highest number of potential grievances to raise against Morsi’s rule. If Morsi doesn’t dramatically shift his political focuses, he should expect these problems to only grow and spread.