For Egyptian activist, election is reminder of elusive dream

Activist says vote being held "over numerous dead bodies" and has lost faith in power of protests as he sees "black years" ahead

For Egyptian activist, election is reminder of elusive dream

World Bulletin/News Desk

In 2010, the death of an activist at the hands of the Egyptian police galvanised computer engineer Wael Eskandar to become a political activist. Eventually, he joined protests that would help topple veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

As Egyptians vote in an election expected to install former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as president, Eskandar seems deflated by what he calls the "triumph of the counter-revolution".

Sisi toppled Egypt's first freely elected president, Mohamed Mursi, last July and mounted a tough crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood that has been condemned by human rights groups.

Security forces have also rounded up secular activists including prominent ones who played a major role in street protests that ended 30 years of iron-fisted rule by Mubarak.

Even though demonstrations have helped remove two presidents in three years, liberals have been losing hope in people power as Sisi prepares to take over the biggest Arab nation.

"The marches don't do any good," said Eskandar, adding that Egyptians must find "alternative means to gain ground rather than protesting".

Instead, Eskandar suggested Egyptians should revive awareness campaigns begun after the revolt in which people went to neighbourhoods with projector screens to illustrate abuses committed by the military.

But that could be risky in Egypt three years after Mubarak's fall raised hopes of a civilian democracy. If Sisi wins the elections as widely expected, he will be the fifth military man to lead Egypt.

Eskandar's pessimism is a far cry from the days when he stood and shouted slogans against military dictatorships in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the revolt against Mubarak, and began blogging about and analysing politics.

As Egyptians gathered at polling stations, Eskandar was furious after spotting posters in Cairo, not far from Tahrir, of rifle-toting security forces wearing bullet-proof vests and ski masks uttering the slogan "Come down (to vote). We protect you."


To Eskandar and other activists, little has changed since the Arab Spring swept through the region.

"This is an occupying force ... asking us to legitimize it," he said, recalling how the security forces and political and military elite of today acted like others did in the past.

Though he had been considering casting a vote for Sisi's sole competitor, Eskandar now says he is not sure he can stomach participating in elections being held "over numerous dead bodies".

Young people seem to share that view. Few were present at polling booths on Monday while the older generation who long for stability were out in big numbers.

"The real heroes are the younger generation that are trying to uphold values that were preached to them: truth, justice, standing up for what's right - things Egypt doesn't have a lot of."

The April 6 youth movement, which helped trigger the protests that ousted Mubarak, has been banned. It called on its members and supporters to boycott the vote.

Thinking of anti-Sisi friends locked up in jails - where human rights groups say widespread abuses are rampant - Eskandar says he feels powerless. "This is not a context for any kind of democratic participation."

In fact, it is reminiscent of the mood in Egypt back in 2010, when 28-year-old activist Khaled Said was beaten to death by two plainclothes policemen.

That incident set Eskandar on a path to what he hoped would be a nation where everyone had the right to chant slogans against the government.

"So many things could have been done differently," said Eskandar.

He regrets that young Egyptians who used social media to help bring millions to the streets during the revolt against Mubarak have failed to make an impact in electoral politics.

"We are just better at tearing things down than building things up."

Nevertheless, he says Sisi has reason to be concerned about restless young Egyptians who still buy into the principles of the uprisings.

"In the short term, it's going to be black years," he said.

For now Eskandar can only think back to what he says were the magic days of Tahrir to raise his spirits.

"What I saw in the 18 days was real, the rest of it isn't," he said. "I pinch myself a lot to make sure it was real."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Mayıs 2014, 23:13