When Morsi died, Egypt’s hopes for democracy died with him

Tallha Abdulrazaq

Egypt’s first democratically elected president has died in the custody of a government that repeatedly ignored his deteriorating health and kept him in constant solitary confinement. There are some days where you simply feel dejected at the state of humanity and the sheer depths of depravity some members of our species will plumb.

Today is one of those days, as Egypt’s first and only freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, collapsed and died in court as he faced bogus charges related to him allegedly betraying his own country. The only traitors I see, however, are the judicial authorities and the latest ‘Pharaoh of Cairo’, Abdel Fattah El Sisi, the chief plotter of the treason against Morsi. Morsi assassinated? The news reports are still unclear as to the cause of Morsi’s untimely death. Some say he died after suffering a stroke. Others yet say that he succumbed to a heart attack.

As far as I am concerned, none of that is relevant as the leading cause of his death was the slow-paced assassination the Egyptian authorities subjected him to since he was ousted in an egregious attack on democracy in 2013. Morsi has been placed in near-total solitary confinement for six years, and there have been numerous reports by human rights watchdogs on his rapidly deteriorating health.

Since being removed from power, Morsi was forcibly isolated and denied access to his legal team and, more importantly, family visitation rights. In fact, up until his death, Morsi saw his family only once in six years. He was said to have been forced to sleep on the concrete floor of his cramped cell and isolated from any human interaction while being denied medical treatment. Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa chief, Sarah Leah Whitson, tweeted that HRW was finalising a new report on his health and incarceration conditions when they learned of his tragic death. Morsi’s death will come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about Egypt’s unique brand of “justice”.

Political prisoners in the infamous “Scorpion Prison” are subjected to horrific beatings, denied access to lawyers and their families, denied medical treatment in ways that contribute to their deaths, and there is absolutely no independent oversight of the prison where abuses continue with impunity. It is nothing short of a miracle that the unfortunate man survived for so long and endured this physical, emotional, and psychological torture as stoically as he did.

Imagine going through all that suffering while those who pretend they did their patriotic duty by bludgeoning the very idea of democracy on the streets of Cairo accuse you of being the traitor. Only someone who is morally and ethically challenged would believe the charges arrayed against Morsi had any truth to them, and the world at large knows they were nothing but politically motivated to justify his incarceration and torture.

Egypt’s only democratically elected president, Morsi, was slowly sapped of his life as the world’s democracies largely stood by and said nothing.

Egyptian’s risk death if they want freedom: When one hears this, they can readily picture in their mind’s eye the former US administration of President Barack Obama tripping over themselves as they struggled to find ways to describe the monstrosity of Sisi’s regime as perpetrating anything but what it was – a coup. Why Obama did not know how to describe a coup as a coup is obvious. American “interests” were narrowly defined as being better served by a totalitarian dictatorship than a fellow democracy that could determine its own national will.

The message in Morsi’s death is clear – Egyptian’s should never, ever in their wildest dreams consider calling for freedom again. If they do, they will either be butchered en masse as occurred in the bloody squares of Cairo’s Rameses and Rabia where thousands were slaughtered at the altar of Sisi’s brutal regime, or they will be slowly bled to death to serve as an example to others who would dare try to upend decades of ruinous military rule.

The ultimate tragedy is that the dictator that Egyptians overthrew during the Arab Spring, Hosni Mubarak, has lived to see the day that his democratically elected successor would not. Mubarak must be laughing at the irony that Egyptians rose up for freedom, only for the deep state he spent decades feeding and growing to rise up from the depths and swallow them all back into the abyss of authoritarianism.

And let us never forget how this disgusting turn of events would never have been possible without the assistance of the oil-rich Arabian Gulf monarchs, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These two sick monarchies, fearful that their people may one day see a future where they can determine their own free will, decided first to finance Sisi’s brutal coup and then to prop up the economy he was pillaging to enrich himself and his cronies.

They piled billions into the Egyptian economy that was dragged to depths even worse than when Morsi took over a chaotic country still emerging from the throes of revolution. All of that to stop any silly little ideas like freedom from forming in the minds of ordinary people.

When Egypt sentenced Morsi to death in 2015, I argued that it had, in fact, sentenced democracy to death. Today, democracy died with Mohammed Morsi, a man who had the courage and moral fortitude to attempt to serve his country and lift it from decades of repression, only to pay the ultimate price. Today, democracies who stayed silent about the coup, Morsi’s mistreatment, and the mass imprisonment and murder of political dissidents by Sisi’s tyrannical regime should eternally hang their heads in shame for allowing this travesty of justice to continue with no end in sight.