Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Sentencing those Egyptian girls was an injustice | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Egyptian women supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi stand inside the defendants’ cage in a courtroom in Alexandria, Egypt, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 (AP Photo/Amira Mortada, El Shorouk Newspaper)

Last week, an Egyptian court sentenced 14 Egyptian girls, including juveniles, to 11 years in prison because they participated in a protest. This decision takes us back to eras we thought we had left behind.

The fact that security forces that opened fire on protesters, killing hundreds, were not held accountable and that girls who carried balloons bearing the Rabaa sign in protest were sentenced to jail is one shocking step backwards.

Also last week, activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah, who was jailed during Hosni Mubarak’s reign, and who is known for his credibility and integrity, was arrested because he called for protests via the internet. What does arresting him signify?

According to these detention standards, Egyptian prisons will not accommodate all those who call for protests as there are so many who do so via Twitter and Facebook.

This farce in Egypt leaves us in a state of shock and disbelief.

The recent suppression of protests as well as the murder, torture and detention of peaceful protesters and the sentencing of those girls to jail escalated the situation in Egypt to a whole new level.

The imprisoned girls are perfect examples of people imprisoned on the basis of their opinions. Traditional media outlets, occupied with demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood and lionizing Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, will not address this violation. But objecting to this violation cannot be contained within social media networks.

The unjust ruling against the girls comes within the context of an expanded campaign aiming to ban protests. This was reflected via the protest law which prominent international and local commissions condemned. The current Egyptian authorities have not stopped targeting journalists, media outlets and anyone who opposes them.

Those delighted by the alleged salvation from the Muslim Brotherhood must wake up from this ignorance. Measures restraining freedoms have increased in the months that followed toppling Mohamed Mursi. The new protest law paves the way for the Muslim Brotherhood to resurface armed, with their renewed complaints. It also paves way to shedding more blood in Egypt.

There’s a weak understanding of freedom in our countries.

This weak understanding of freedom is not limited to regimes, as it also includes many institutions and segments of society. We bragged about freedom three years ago but we are selective when we practice it. We accept freedom whenever that suits us and we deprive those who disagree with us of it. Murder, gossip and accusations of treason have become a semi-collective manner of dealing with those who do not agree with the general views.

It is true that the Muslim Brotherhood failed to manage Egypt’s public life. It’s also true that they demonstrated an unprecedented urge to monopolize power and spread fear during their reign. But turning them into a victim grants them another chance at seizing power.

Revolutions have not freed us from the dominating authoritarian mentality yet. This authoritarianism may be disguised in a modern outfit but its essence is oppressive. The task of breaking free from oppression began three years ago has not yet ended. Our path towards breaking free from authoritarianism, whether religious or military, is still a difficult one.