Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The winter out of the Arab Spring

EARLY this year, the world was glued to the unfolding of the so-called Arab Spring that started in Tunisia and high-peaked with the expulsion of the powerful Hosni Mubarak out of his own Egypt. Most global bystanders thought that a trailblazer of a new paradigm was in the offing.

International news organizations were feeding viewers with video footages of protesting crowds who were mostly young people and who appeared not to be goaded by radical movements or extremists. In Egypt, for instance, Muslims and Christians were rallying and praying together at the Al Tahir Square. Data streams in social media were oozing with encouraging messages. At the outset there seemed to be no dent of extremism or Islamic agenda. Young people, it seemed, just wanted to live better lives like their neighbors in Europe. They never even longed for the blood of deposed government heads who fleeced their countries through decades of corruption. Nobody, of course, dared to suggest that democracy was looming in the horizon. What was certain was change was brewing—hence, the Arab Spring.

But not until last Sunday, October 9. That day “winter” started with a rather peaceful protest by Coptic Christians who were upset over the recent attack on a church in Assuan, Southern Egypt and deplored the silence of the new government at what happened. This group was part of the protesters in Al Tahir Squared that called for a change of government. In the rally, the Copts called for the resignation of the governor of the province and accused him of motivating the extremists to attack their church.

The protest which started peacefully in the spirit of the Arab Spring degenerated into total chaos when security forces reportedly intervened by violently repressing the protesters with armored vehicles. It ended with 25 dead and 500 wounded. Coptic priest Father Daoud said he saw a tank roll over 5 protesters to death.

Two days after the rampage, about 20 thousand people attended the funeral of the victims at the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo where the Coptic Patriarch Shenouda III announced three days of mourning and prayers to commemorate the victims whom they regarded as “martyrs who have saved the Church.” A Coptic, Aida Mahrous, told the press: “the next regime will be the same as the previous one. Politics will never change. To solve our problems we need to show that Christians and Muslims are one people, because otherwise the government will remain a mass of corruption.”

For now, nobody really can tell what is the next picture—except that tentacles of winter seem to be inevitably coming out of the Arab Spring.

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