Egyptian Politics Has Gone So Crazy It Needs a New Word to Explain It

CAIRO — During the height of Hosni Mubarak's autocracy, author Saad Eddine Ibrahim crafted a new word to describe his country's plight: Egypt, he said, was now a jumlukiya. The neologism combined the Arabic word for "republic" (jumhuriya) and "monarchy" (malakiya) -- conveying the idea that though Egypt was technically still governed by republican institutions, the state was increasingly at the whims of Mubarak, his sons, and those in his "court."

At another moment of crisis, Egyptians have coined a new term: sandooqratiye, a combination of the words sandooq ("[ballot] box") and demoqratiye ("democracy"). Groups opposed to deposed President Mohamed Morsy have popularized the term to convey what they see as the Muslim Brotherhood's approach to governance -- that winning an election gives one free reign to remake society and government however you see fit. The implicit message is that Egypt under Morsy was a distorted form of democracy -- not the real thing.

The word's creator appears to be columnist Amr Ezzat, who penned an article for al-Masry al-Youm in March using the term. In the column, Ezzat noted presciently that Egyptians were "engaging in a wide and open dialogue around a proposed military coup" to rid themselves of the Brotherhood.

"Despite my disdain for calls to the army to step in, I don't believe the authoritarian Islamists are any more democratic than the authors of these calls, perhaps only more 'boxocratic,' he wrote. "Authoritarian Islamists are ... abusing the very origin of the idea of democracy via ballot boxes, which drives another panic-stricken party to cast off the entire democratic process."

Essam el-Haddad, Morsy's point man on foreign policy, addressed this argument directly in his final statement before the army seized power and detained him at an unknown location. "Many have seen fit in these last months to lecture us on how democracy is more than just the ballot box," he wrote. "That may indeed be true. But what is definitely true is that there is no democracy without the ballot box."

If Egypt continues at this rate, its citizens will no doubt have more opportunities to coin fresh terms that describe the political dysfunction all around them. 



After Malala's Speech, Pakistan's Long Road to Fix Education

Speaking on a 16th birthday that she nearly didn't live to see, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education rights advocate targeted by the Taliban, called on an assembly at the United Nations on Friday to invest in educational opportunities for children around the globe and particularly for girls in the developing world.

She described her ordeal matter-of-factly, saying, "On the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed."

And she pushed back against her assailants' worldview. The Taliban thinks "that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would send girls to the hell just because of going to school," she observed. "The terrorists are misusing the name of Islam and Pashtun society for their own personal benefits. Pakistan is peace-loving democratic country. Pashtuns want education for their daughters and sons. And Islam is a religion of peace, humanity, and brotherhood. Islam says that it is not only each child's right to get education, rather it is their duty and responsibility."

But while the Taliban may have failed in its efforts to silence critics like Malala, Pakistan has made little headway in increasing access to education and halting violence against children in recent years. The most recent U.N. data, tracked by the Guardian, show that gender parity at all levels of education in Pakistan has plateaued, with 82 girls to every 100 boys in primary school and 73 girls to every 100 boys in secondary school -- and this does not include the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), where the Taliban has exerted the most influence.

Despite the dearth of official statistics from the FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a recent report by Save the Children cites Pakistani intelligence reports indicating that "since 2008, 995 schools and 35 colleges have been destroyed in the FATA and KP province." Students, especially girls, have also been targeted in acid attacks, and just in June, a bomb attack targeted a school bus.

According to the Pakistani newspaper the Nation, Pakistan does not keep a national database on violence against children. But a report by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, released in May, identified 5,659 cases, including 943 murders, 1,170 injuries, and 547 incidences of torture.

"So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism, and let us pick up our books and pens," Malala concluded today. "They are our most powerful weapons." She has an uphill battle to fight.