Morsi has betrayed the Egyptian revolution

Worsening safety for women, breakdowns in the rule of law, crackdowns on cultural activity and police abuse - the Arab Spring wasn't meant to end like this.

As the first anniversary of President Morsi’s transition to power in Egypt draws closer, the 15 million signatures on a petition calling for his resignation loom large. Feted, then widely mocked, as the runner-up in Time's 2012 Person of the Year poll, his presidency being questioned by massive national protests scheduled for the end of this month. Egypt is expected to come to a halt with many expecting violence between Morsi supporters and the indefatigable pro-democracy movement. Throw in the possibility that thousands of Egypt's anarchic 'ultra' football fans and the thugs known as 'baltagaya' may join either side and these protests could turn out to be very nasty indeed.

There is a sense of anger among many at Morsi for belying the democratic ideals of the revolution. Civil society groups in particular are concerned. The conviction of 43 NGO workers, including 16 Americans, at the start of June for receiving foreign funds and operating without a licence, and the closure of Freedom House and other NGOs linked to the defendants, have sent jitters through the sector. Egypt’s activists and human rights researchers, forcibly muted under Mubarak, were an integral part of the revolution and have energetically created a space for research and discussion since his departure. They are now waiting to find out their fate, faced with a restrictive law currently with the Shura Council (Egypt’s senate) that may suffocate their existence.

Under this proposed law, a coordination committee will be put in place to determine issues relating to foreign funding. The committee will then need to give permission to groups before they can receive funds from overseas. It will include officials from the security and intelligence agencies as well as government ministries and civil society.

Those human rights organisations who have reported on the dark underbelly of the revolution, including torture, gang rapes and abuses by the Special Council of the Armed Forces, will be in a particularly difficult position. The committee will have absolute discretion to block access to foreign funding without a requirement to justify the decision. This gives the government arbitrary powers to extinguish projects with which it does not agree.

"We do not know what will happen to NGOs if the NGO law is passed", said Chaimaa Tayssir of Cairo-based Nazra for Feminist Studies, an organisation that has contributed substantial research into the rapes of women in Tahrir Square. "Funding for NGOs has traditionally come from outside Egypt since the Mubarak era. There is a sense that wealthy Egyptians giving to the NGO sector will be disadvantaged in future business deals if they give."

A whispering campaign in the media has also begun, seemingly attempting to portray NGOs in Egypt as spies or as recipients of money from western governments intent on destroying Egyptian culture. This is having a particular impact on organizations focusing on women’s rights, the interpretation of which is becoming an increasingly divisive topic in Egypt. Attacks on female protesters in Tahrir Square and the harassment of women on Egyptian streets seem to indicate resentment in some sectors towards women participating in public life.

The worsening safety for women in Egypt’s public spaces, breakdowns in the rule of law, crackdowns on cultural activity and recent reports of alleged police abuse under have seen the electorate turn away from the Muslim Brotherhood in droves. Twenty eight year old Mohammed El-Gindy was reportedly tortured to death by police after several days of protesting in Tahrir Square in January this year, while in the same month a video from the Associated Press surfaced showing protestor Hamarda Saber being beaten by riot police and dragged naked through the streets.

As Cairo residents and those in other major Egyptian cities prepare to take to the streets again, pro-democracy supporters say they are digging in their heels for the long game. Having overcome so much since it all began in January 2011, they are not going home now. Cairo activist Hicham Ezzat who has attended the protests from the beginning is reflective. "Thoughts of myself were transcended when I watched people next to me get shot and die in Tahrir. We fought for our human rights and Morsi has not respected them. We must now write a new page of Egyptian history, this time with an elected government that respects the human rights space the Egyptian people have fought so hard for."

Charlotte Allan is policy and advocacy officer for CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

An Egyptian man holds a placard as hundreds of anti-government protesters shout political slogans against president Mohammed Morsi in Tahrir Square. Photograph: Getty Images.

Charlotte Allan is policy and advocacy officer for CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

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Arsène Wenger: how can an intelligent manager preside over such a hollowed-out team?

The Arsenal manager faces a frustrating legacy.

Sport is obviously not all about winning, but it is about justified hope. That ­distinction has provided, until recently, a serious defence of Arsène Wenger’s Act II – the losing part. Arsenal haven’t won anything big for 13 years. But they have been close enough (and this is a personal view) to sustain the experience of investing emotionally in the story. Hope turning to disappointment is fine. It’s when the hope goes, that’s the problem.

Defeat takes many forms. In both 2010 and 2011, Arsenal lost over two legs to Barcelona in the Champions League. Yet these were rich and rewarding sporting experiences. In the two London fixtures of those ties, Arsenal drew 2-2 and won 2-1 against the most dazzling team in the world. Those nights reinvigorated my pride in sport. The Emirates Stadium had the best show in town. Defeat, when it arrived in Barcelona, was softened by gratitude. We’d been entertained, more than entertained.

Arsenal’s 5-1 surrender to Bayern Munich on 15 February was very different. In this capitulation by instalments, the fascination was macabre rather than dramatic. Having long given up on discerning signs of life, we began the post-mortem mid-match. As we pored over the entrails, the curiosity lay in the extent of the malady that had brought down the body. The same question, over and over: how could such an intelligent, deep-thinking manager preside over a hollowed-out team? How could failings so obvious to outsiders, the absence of steel and resilience, evade the judgement of the boss?

There is a saying in rugby union that forwards (the hard men) determine who wins, and the backs (the glamour boys) decide by how much. Here is a footballing equivalent: midfielders define matches, attacking players adorn them and defenders get the blame. Yet Arsenal’s players as good as vacated the midfield. It is hard to judge how well Bayern’s playmakers performed because they were operating in a vacuum; it looked like a morale-boosting training-ground drill, free from the annoying presence of opponents.

I have always been suspicious of the ­default English critique which posits that mentally fragile teams can be turned around by licensed on-field violence – a good kicking, basically. Sporting “character” takes many forms; physical assertiveness is only one dimension.

Still, it remains baffling, Wenger’s blind spot. He indulges artistry, especially the mercurial Mesut Özil, beyond the point where it serves the player. Yet he won’t protect the magicians by surrounding them with effective but down-to-earth talents. It has become a diet of collapsing soufflés.

What held back Wenger from buying the linchpin midfielder he has lacked for many years? Money is only part of the explanation. All added up, Arsenal do spend: their collective wage bill is the fourth-highest in the League. But Wenger has always been reluctant to lavish cash on a single star player, let alone a steely one. Rather two nice players than one great one.

The power of habit has become debilitating. Like a wealthy but conservative shopper who keeps going back to the same clothes shop, Wenger habituates the same strata of the transfer market. When he can’t get what he needs, he’s happy to come back home with something he’s already got, ­usually an elegant midfielder, tidy passer, gets bounced in big games, prone to going missing. Another button-down blue shirt for a drawer that is well stuffed.

It is almost universally accepted that, as a business, Arsenal are England’s leading club. Where their rivals rely on bailouts from oligarchs or highly leveraged debt, Arsenal took tough choices early and now appear financially secure – helped by their manager’s ability to engineer qualification for the Champions League every season while avoiding excessive transfer costs. Does that count for anything?

After the financial crisis, I had a revealing conversation with the owner of a private bank that had sailed through the turmoil. Being cautious and Swiss, he explained, he had always kept more capital reserves than the norm. As a result, the bank had made less money in boom years. “If I’d been a normal chief executive, I’d have been fired by the board,” he said. Instead, when the economic winds turned, he was much better placed than more bullish rivals. As a competitive strategy, his winning hand was only laid bare by the arrival of harder times.

In football, however, the crash never came. We all wrote that football’s insane spending couldn’t go on but the pace has only quickened. Even the Premier League’s bosses confessed to being surprised by the last extravagant round of television deals – the cash that eventually flows into the hands of managers and then the pockets of players and their agents.

By refusing to splash out on the players he needed, whatever the cost, Wenger was hedged for a downturn that never arrived.

What an irony it would be if football’s bust comes after he has departed. Imagine the scenario. The oligarchs move on, finding fresh ways of achieving fame, respectability and the protection achieved by entering the English establishment. The clubs loaded with debt are forced to cut their spending. Arsenal, benefiting from their solid business model, sail into an outright lead, mopping up star talent and trophies all round.

It’s often said that Wenger – early to invest in data analytics and worldwide scouts; a pioneer of player fitness and lifestyle – was overtaken by imitators. There is a second dimension to the question of time and circumstance. He helped to create and build Arsenal’s off-field robustness, even though football’s crazy economics haven’t yet proved its underlying value.

If the wind turns, Arsène Wenger may face a frustrating legacy: yesterday’s man and yet twice ahead of his time. 

Ed Smith is a journalist and author, most recently of Luck. He is a former professional cricketer and played for both Middlesex and England.

This article first appeared in the 24 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The world after Brexit