“We should always fear what the government might accuse us of,” Amr Hamzawy, a former member of the Egyptian government elected after the country’s 2011 revolution, told Yale students Wednesday.
But Hamzawy’s career in government was short lived, as after just six months in office the People’s Assembly dissolved.
At a talk hosted by the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Hamzawy discussed his upcoming book, “Egypt’s New Authoritarianism,” as well as the rule of law in Egypt — or the lack thereof. The event was part of the World Fellows program, which invites speakers from outside the Yale community to discuss topics relevant to society today. A senior research scholar, Hamzawy told the crowd of 38 students and faculty about the changing nature of the law in Egypt since 2013.
“Egypt’s post-2013 ruling establishment has passed various new laws and legal amendments tailored to curb labor and student activism,” he told students. “The middle class and business community aren’t interested in democratization,” he added.
Hamzawy said that the national currency has lost almost 50 percent of its value since 2013, and the country is facing an unmatched level of debt per capita.
Additionally, Hamzawy underscored that Egyptian citizens feel a sense of fear and repression by their government.
“New laws and legal amendments in Egypt since 2013 have resulted in an intensified government repression as well as in driving citizens away from the public space,” he said. “They have a claim of total control.”
Hamzawy added that the government gave more power to the military in an effort to promote Egyptian nationalism. Citing the Protest Law, which forces activists to register with the government in advance of their protests, Hamzawy said that people are afraid to speak up.
But the country’s civil unrest dates back years. In 2011, civilians began protesting Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s longtime president who now faces criticism for the country’s social and economic problems. At one protest, 16 people were killed, while over 200 were wounded. After 18 days of protest, Mubarak was forced to resign.
But according to Hamzawy, protests have since subsided.
“Repression works,” he argued, saying that there have been “decreasing numbers of public protest since 2013.”
When asked whether there was anything positive he could say about his home country, he remarked, “the art and the theater.” The crowd erupted into laughter.
Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a fellow researching the modern architecture of Sharjah, organized the event. Qassemi praised the talk as both productive and informative.
“The turnout was great, we had 38 people from a variety of fields and departments,” Qassemi said. “It shows that, despite the troubles in the Middle East, people are still interested.”
The World Fellows program was established in 2002.
Walker Atkinson | firstname.lastname@example.org