One year later, it's time for Egypt to finally have civilian rule

By Moustafa Bayoumi

Published: Friday, Feb. 10 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

An Egyptian youth walks past graffiti that includes a defaced picture of military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Arabic that reads, "Mubarak's dog, no for the military rule, freedom," in Cairo, Egypt Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. Egypt is refusing to back down in a dispute with the U.S. over Cairo's crackdown on nonprofit groups despite Washington's threats to cut aid, while the military deployed troops to the nation's streets after a surge in violence and protests against its rule.

Nasser Nasser, Associated Press

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The time for civilian rule in Egypt is now.

One year into its amazing revolution, Egypt is still in crisis. Despite overthrowing Hosni Mubarak, their dictator of 30 years, Egyptians continue to be ruled by military men with iron fists.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces assumed control of the country on Feb. 11, 2011. Initially, the people welcomed it as a caretaker during the supposed transition to civilian rule. But the military has resisted handing power over to the Egyptian people.

The Supreme Council is unfit to rule Egypt. It has proved this over and over. In October, 27 Egyptians were killed in front of the state media building. They were protesting the military's lack of resolve to protect Egypt's Coptic Christian community. Many of the dead were run over by military vehicles, and state media incited sectarian hatred during the massacre.

In November and December, the military killed dozens of people in demonstrations in downtown Cairo.

The military has brutally beaten and tortured thousands of people. Women have been subjected to humiliating "virginity tests" while under arrest; others have been sexually assaulted. Egypt's rulers have tried at least 12,000 civilians in military courts, more than Mubarak ever did, according to Human Rights Watch.

The Supreme Council has also banned strikes and demonstrations, intimidated journalists and activists (including several Americans, now under arrest and barred from leaving the country) and limited freedom of expression.

The latest outrage was the deadly violence a few days ago at a soccer match in Port Said, where police stood by doing nothing as crowds of worked-up fans battled each other. More than 70 people were killed. Many Egyptians blamed the Supreme Council for not ensuring safety.

If the military is incapable of ruling Egypt, will the Muslim Brotherhood be any better? Recent elections in Egypt have resulted in religious parties dominating the lower house of Parliament. The election was particularly devastating to Egypt's labor movement, which was crucial to the revolution, and to women, who garnered only eight seats (about 2 percent).

But true democracy in Egypt will not arrive via one election alone. It will come with a new constitution that enshrines equal protections for all, regardless of faith, and the rights to freedom of expression and association. And it will come when strong, independent institutions are able to uphold constitutional principles and the rule of law.

There are many dedicated people in Egypt working toward just such a goal. And the United States, which gives $1.3 billion to the Egyptian military, ought to use its influence to pressure the Supreme Council to hand over power to the people.

Despite the setbacks, Egypt's glorious revolution has been an inspiration to freedom seekers in Egypt and around the world. We must all work to keep it that way.

Moustafa Bayoumi, a professor of English at Brooklyn College, is author of "How Does It Feel to be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America."

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