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Fleeting moments

July 4, 2019

Death in a cage


July 4, 2019

Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsi lost his battle with life in the Egyptian courtroom where had been brought in a soundproof cage for the hearing of cases against him.

Morsi had been in solitary confinement for the last six years after his government was toppled through a military coup staged by Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Morsi had been president hardly for a year and had not yet celebrated his first year in office when coup-makers sent his government packing.

Soon after his removal from office, Mohamed Morsi, along with some Brotherhood members, was locked up to face trial. He was accused of espionage, torture, and of stealing livestock, which reminds one of some of our politicians booked for stealing cattle some decades ago. Even though the state prosecutors recommended the death sentence for Morsi, the court exercising its infinite wisdom and mercy awarded him ‘merely’45 years in prison.

Egypt has developed a vast network of prisons. Most of these prisons are known for brutalising prisoners, especially political prisoners. The Tora prison complex in Cairo looks like a fortress city that reminds one of medieval times. Located in this complex is the infamous prison that earned the nickname Scorpion Prison because of the tales of horror attached to it. According to wardens of the Scorpion Prison, those who enter it once rarely leave it alive. It’s a one-way entry.

Those facing charges, especially politically motivated charges, are kept in cages. And encaged they’re produced in the court. And they can’t be heard outside the soundproof cage without the jailers switching on the mike. One cannot help marvelling at the ingenuity of the tormentors who devised such an elaborate arrangement to humiliate and torture political detainees.

During his six-year incarceration, Morsi was allowed three brief visits by his family. Doesn’t such barbarous treatment remind one of some of the most brutal regimes in history? Given the choice between death and 45 years of torture and solitary confinement, what would one prefer? Without a second thought, death in one fell swoop.

President Sisi has been elected twice since he toppled Morsi’s government. During both terms, he scored 97 percent votes. When in the last election held in July 2018, he again scored 97 percent votes, journalist Linah Alsaafin of Aljazeera reported the election story with the headline: ‘Abdel Fattah el-Sisi narrowly misses 100 percent of vote in Egypt’. Even the most popular leaders in the world’s oldest democracies would envy such outstanding popularity.

Another leader with popularity comparable to Sisi was Hosni Mubarak who ruled Egypt for more than thirty years. Following the Arab Spring uprising, Mubarik was arrested for the murder of protesters and for corruption. After spending some years in the comfort of a VIP suit in the military hospital in Cairo, he was released. He now lives with his family in their villa in the upscale suburb Heliopolis in Cairo and frequently spends his leisure time at his residence at the seaside resort Sharm al-Sheikh.

Alas, democratically elected civilian president, Dr Mohamed Morsi, PhD from the University of Southern California, had to meet a different fate. The Egyptian people must wonder when the rule reminiscent of the ancient Pharaohs will end in their country.

Nevertheless, we must ask ourselves why democracy in its true form, as in the West or in Australia and New Zealand, doesn’t survive in most of the countries of the Muslim world. Even in countries where the façade of democracy exists, the governments are repressive and totalitarian in nature. In some cases, ubiquitous forces overshadow apparently democratic dispensations. In Muslim countries of the Middle East, the word ‘democracy’ is an anathema. The Arab Spring accomplished little, if anything at all.

Increasingly, people in the Muslim world blame the Western powers for encouraging and supporting repressive regimes in their countries. The truth is that for these powers to control a few at the top is much easier than dealing with a gaggle of dissenting parliamentarians.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]

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