Radicalism gaining ground

Disillusioned at what they see as little change in the country's socio-economic and political landscape since the uprising, more young people appear convinced that peaceful protests are ineffective in bringing about the sought-after changes.
   A few months ago, a group calling itself Egypt's ‘Black Bloc’ disrupted the Cairo Metro service and blocked main roads on several occasions. Another group linked to Islamists sprang up, dubbing itself the ‘White Bloc’, vowing to face up to the Black Bloc. Fortunately, no showdown has occurred between the two rival groups. 
   Meanwhile, hardcore soccer fans, known as the Ultras, jumped onto the tense Egyptian stage after 74 people, mainly supporters of the Cairo-based Al-Ahly team, had been killed in rioting at a match in the coastal city of Port Said in February 2012.
   The Ultras took to the streets several times to protest what they saw as the dragging of feet in the achieving of justice for the Port Said victims. Their anger peaked on March 9 when a court acquitted policemen charged in the Port Said deaths. The Ultras were blamed for torching a police club and the headquarters of the Egyptian Football Association in Cairo.
   Taking the law into their own hands, residents in several areas have repeatedly lynched suspected outlaws. In a high-profile case of mob justice, villagers in the Delta Governorate of el-Gharbia last month dragged two suspected criminals to death, before hanging them upside down by the ankles.  
   The lynchings were reported amid a questionable absence of police, a rise in crime rates and the proliferation of unlicensed weapons.
   The army has, meanwhile, been pursuing a campaign against suspected insurgents in the inhospitable Sinai Peninsula since last August, when 16 Egyptian soldiers were shot dead close to the border town of Rafah, near the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
   The surge in militancy and violence in a country long known for its peacefulness and security comes in the wake of a deep political crisis between President Mohamed Morsi and the mostly secular opposition. 
   Political upheaval is mainly culpable for pushing the national economy to the brink as the country's foreign reserves continue to dip to critical levels. 
   According to figures released last week by the Central Bank of Egypt, the country’s foreign holdings slid from $36 billion before the 2011 revolt against Mubarak to $13.4 billion at the end of March, hardly enough to pay for basic imports for a three-month period.
   The increasing opponents of Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected President, accuse him of failing to fix the dilapidated economy and forging national consensus. At the weekend, the April 6 protest movement, who played a major role in the anti-Mubarak uprising two years ago, launched massive rallies in Cairo and elsewhere against Morsi's policies.
   April 6 threw its weight behind Morsi's election almost a year ago, after he had pledged to achieve the objectives of the revolution, if he were elected President. 
   Obviously let down by him, the movement launched what it dubbed the ‘Day of Rage’ on Saturday, which marked its fifth birthday. 
   The protesters, mainly youth, demanded the incumbent Islamist-led Government be replaced by a technocrat-dominated cabinet, the sacking of the Public Prosecutor, handpicked by Morsi, and the release of opposition activists, recently detained for allegedly inciting violence.
   The majority of Egyptians living on limited incomes have borne the brunt of the dire economic situation. An acute fuel shortage, frequent electricity cuts and a rise in food prices have further fanned the public’s anger. A recent crackdown on dissenting media also raises concerns about freedom of expression. 
   Failing to improve the situation threatens to radicalise more Egyptians.


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