This 30 June anniversary wasn’t an occasion to celebrate the mass protests that led to the ouster of President Morsi. Not just because Egypt’s top prosecutor was killed in a bomb attack in Cairo a day earlier. There was little for Egyptians to celebrate except —for many—the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from power.
At this time last year, some political groups rallied outside Ittihadiya presidential palace to commemorate the first anniversary of anti-Morsi protests. Others abstained from celebrations, unhappy with the crackdown on many prominent activists under the controversial protest law.
This year was plainly uneventful with Cairo streets turning quiet on Tuesday. Although 30 June was designated a public holiday for the second anniversary of 30 June, the Egyptian presidency announced the cancellation of all planned celebrations after the assassination of Egypt’s general prosecutor Hisham Barakat, who led the prosecution of supporters of Islamist groups.
Amid condemnations of the deadly attack inside Egypt and abroad, crossed accusations didn’t fail to come from the two rival camps on Monday. The State Information Service blamed the Brotherhood for the crime stating that targeting the prosecutor general, as one of the high symbols of the Egyptian judiciary, is a new confirmation that ‘’this terrorist group rejects the State of the law and even rejects the idea of the Egyptian State in the first place’’.
In its statement, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood held the Sisi government –along with the military coup- responsible for Barak’s killing saying that the ongoing unrest in the country “set the scene for violence and turned Egypt away from a promising democratic experience towards mass execution, violence and bloodshed.”
Monday’s attack on Barakat’s convoy was the first successful assassination attempt against a state official since an upturn in violence following the 3 July 2013 overthrow of Morsi.
It came despite there were indicators that a major attack against the judiciary was expected such as recent threats directed at the public prosecutor on jihadist websites, anticipated violence in conjunction with 30 June on social media, and the previous targeting of judges and judicial figures. Security forces had been on high alert ahead of the protest anniversary.
Yet, Egypt’s security apparatus failed to prevent the murder of the country’s top public prosecutor.
Quite a fiasco for a government that has made “security” its mantra, with little sign that security is improving.
Enough to prompt President Al-Sisi to pledge tougher laws and tighter security measures the next day. The interior minister came up with a provisional security plan entailing increased security presence surrounding vital facilities and public institutions. Starting Tuesday morning, Cairo’s Tahrir metro station was closed indefinitely for security reasons. It was only recently re-opened after a two-year-closure following the violent dispersal of Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in.
The fatal bomb blast came on the eve of the 30 June anniversary. A symbolic moment offering time for reflection beyond Barak’s death.
Two years since Mohamed Morsi was toppled and one year under Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the country hasn’t seen real changes whether political, economic or social. Egyptians lament the same lack of democracy, abuse of human rights and poor living conditions that triggered the 2011 revolution.
‘’For me, 30 June just means we got rid of the Muslim Brothers. We’re still facing the same daily problems. What has changed?’’ said Suzane, a school teacher.
She complained about the country’s high unemployment, poverty, low wages and a significant rise in food prices in the past year.
‘’I have friends, working in both the public and private sectors, who haven’t got paid for up to 8 months. Others get half of their salaries every month or two’’, the teacher added, ‘’We don’t see money circulating, jobs are not secure’’.
With all the funding pumped in by Gulf states and investments attracted from foreign firms, one wonders where’s the money flowing into the Egyptian economy, and if it’s going to the country’s main beneficiares, namely small and medium-sized businesses which employ the biggest share of Egypt’s workforce.
Sisi’s reliance on mega-projects projects like the new capital plan or the the new Suez Canal, just as past leaders mistakenly ventured into similar projects, won’t do to fix Egypt’s strucural problems.
When will the president deliver on his promises to create jobs and improve the standard of living for all Egyptians?
‘’I think the majority of Egyptians don’t feel any major change, but at the same time are still supporting Sisi’s government’’, a journalist named Osman noted, ‘’People are waiting and seeing’’.
Even under the banner of the ‘war against terrorism’, security is still very precarious as the reporter said the murder of Barak showed. Looking back to last year’s 30 June, Osman observed that –just as street protests are dwindling these days- pro-Islamist presence in the streets has considerably shrunk today and non-Islamist political groups are more alienated.
Compared to Mubarak’s time, Suzane felt safer back then. ‘’Shops used to open until midnight, now they close by 9pm and I’m not comfortable walking in the street when it’s dark’’.
The ongoing security crackdown by the current regime on its political adversaries, and criminalization of the Muslim Brotherhood don’t seem to serve Egypt’s national security.
Instead of vowing to further crack down on dissent or seek revenge by changing law to allow faster executions, as Al-Sisi announced at the funeral of the assassinated lead prosecutor, the Egyptian president would be better off asserting the rule of law and achieving justice to prevent more bloodshed.
The killing of Barakat could mark a new phase in the Egyptian government’s nearly two year battle to eradicate the Islamist insurgency. This insurgency, largely confined to Sinai, now appears to escalate after lower-profile attacks directed at police and army personnel –leaving hundreds killed- since Morsi’s ouster, and move to Cairo. Islamist militants have more recently targeted several judges amid the conviction of many Brotherhood supporters in terror-related cases.
Egypt’s courts are described by human rights groups as highly politicized. Several thousand Islamists have received prison terms, and hundreds sentenced to death in a number of mass trials.
A country without justice cannot expect stability. Else, Egypt could be stuck in this continued cycle of violence with more attacks and assassination attempts against police officers, soldiers, men of judiciary or government figures to expect.
Alessandra Bajec is a freelance journalist.