I’ve been thinking about Egypt quite a lot the last few days in light of the current round of protests. The lastest uprisings are the next in what I think may be a long line of them. Clearly Egypt is finding its way after the Arab spring. It is nearly impossible to say how this will work out and indeed how it is going at the moment, but I have one specific experience with Egypt that will always be on my mind during these days.
Back in December when I was at the ITU’s WCIT, a leaked Russian proposal made its way around the conference on the first weekend. The text of this proposal focused on government control of the Internet. This proposal was backed by, among others, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. But once the leaked document became widespread across the conference Egypt was forced to speak up and claim that they were not associated with it in any way, through the clench of their teeth. But why was this so?
President Morsi decreed in late November that he had ‘unlimited powers to protect the nation’ and override judicial decisions. Though this is a gross overview of the situation, the bottom line was that a number of citizens were not happy. On the day of the leaked proposal, the military was surrounding the presidential palace. On December 8th, not long after, this minor event at the WCIT took place, Morsi rolled back his decree.
I will never know if President Morsi himself requested that Egypt disassociate itself with the stringent proposals over the Internet, but one thing is for sure. It is clear that the Egyptian representative at the WCIT knew full well not to further aggravate their citizens at the particular moment of the rather high profile event.