Since the overthrow of President Mohammad Morsi at the beginning of July, over 1,000 Egyptians have died. The country is in a state of emergency, with a series of curfews and lockdowns unsuccessfully attempting to control an already explosive situation, and if the government does not make good on its promises soon, the crisis will only get worse.
Monday’s attack against policemen in the Sinai – leaving at least 25 dead – was the deadliest in years, and came a day after 36 Islamist detainees died in custody. Churches are being burned down, and communities destabilized.
While there has been much talk, from both sides, of the need to calm the tension, all evidence sadly points to a very different reality. Every day more and more arms are flowing in from Libya, courtesy of various militias, and the fractious environment of the country is attracting Islamist extremists from all over, as the situation in the Sinai has revealed.
The widespread crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood will only worsen the state of affairs, pushing the party and its millions of supporters underground, and threatening to inspire a long-term program of retaliatory attacks.
Many Egyptians, perhaps rightly, fear an Iraqization of the country, with the frequency of such terrorist attacks increasing as the days go on. But in a country of over 85 million people, this cannot be allowed to happen. The consequences for the entire region, let alone the country itself, would be long-lasting and drastic.
And after two years on the streets, with much industry at a standstill and tourism basically dead in the water, many Egyptians are understandably suffering from revolution fatigue. Most want little more than to be able to go to work every day, and to put food on the table.
On Sunday army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi promised that there was room in Egypt for all, apparently alluding to people of all political persuasions. He has got to become a man of his word, for if there is to be any chance for a dissipation of this current toxic environment besetting the country, this alleged inclusiveness must be reflected in the facts on the ground.
All Egyptians must be allowed to take part in political processes, and be allowed to aspire to become part of the systems of rule and governance. No one side should be allowed to disappear the opposition, as if it is a button to be switched off.
After decades of living under an oppressive autocracy, Egypt will undoubtedly see many more days defined by confrontation in the years to come. But this has to be confrontation on the level of political debate and dialogue, not of blood on the mosque floor and in the streets.