Hosni Mubarak is gone, but dictatorship in Egypt is still alive and kicking.

A growing number of Egyptians are beginning to wonder whether they made a mistake when they put their full confidence in the ruling military council.

The failure of the military junta in leading Egypt toward political and economic reforms, democracy and freedom of expression will eventually pave the way for the rise of Muslim fundamentalists to power.

The Egyptians who helped bring down Mubarak's regime more than 100 days ago are now beginning to realize that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is not any better.

In fact, they have good reason to be worried about the future of their country in the wake of the policies and actions of the military rulers in Cairo, most of whom are former Mubarak loyalists. Some say that the military officers running Egypt have become so paranoid that they do not hesitate to resort to intimidation and humiliation to silence critics and journalists.

Under the new military dictatorship, women who take part in street protests are being forced to undergo virginity tests after being arrested and threatened with prostitution charges.

A 20-year-old woman told Amnesty International that she was forced to take off all her clothes in a room with open doors and windows as a man carried out a "virginity test" on her. While she was naked, male soldiers looked on and took photographs.

Human rights activists point out that the military council has tried more than 5,000 civilians before military courts in the past three months. Many of the defendants were arrested during peaceful demonstrations, the activists said.

The military council also intends to prevent millions of Egyptians living abroad from voting in parliamentary elections later this year.

Egypt's daily newspaper, Al-Masry Al-Youm, quoted a military source as saying that the ruling military council has submitted a law that does not allow Egyptians living abroad to vote.

"The silent majority feel that their country is in grave danger and that the great aspirations that came with the success of the revolution are now in jeopardy, the future unknown and possibly hopeless," said Sara Ghabrial, a coordinating committee member of the Alliance for a Democratic Egypt.

"This is a matter that affects all Egyptians, both at home and away. Compromising our constitutional voting rights would signal a regression in Egypt's transition from dictatorship to democracy."

Earlier this week, Egyptian authorities revoked the citizenship of Morris Sadek, a Coptic Christian lawyer living in the US, and banned him from entering Egypt.

Sadek has been accused of insulting Islam, showing allegiance to Judaism and calling on the US and Israel to interfere in his country's internal affairs.

The move against Sadek coincides with increased violence against Egypt's Coptic Christian minority, including the torching of churches.

While the military council has been quick and firm in subjecting women to virginity checks and bringing peaceful demonstrators before military tribunals, it has shown incompetence in dealing with anti-Christian violence.

Those who were hoping that Egypt would enjoy a free media in the post-Mubarak era were reminded last week that that the situation under the military council has not changed dramatically.

Last week, military prosecutors summoned and then released the editor and two journalists from the El-Shorouk newspaper for reporting on a purported deal to offer amnesty to Mubarak.

All three were released only after they signed a pledge to refrain from reporting about issues involving the armed forces that might cause "confusion."

Human rights activists said that the action against the journalists was a violation of freedom of expression aimed at preventing any criticism of the military rulers.

In yet another sign of where Egypt is headed under the military dictatorship, the authorities have banned "intimate" scenes, including kissing and hugging, from television and cinema. The move is seen as an attempt to appease Muslim extremists.

It was Anwar Sadat who changed Article 2 of Egypt's Constitution from "Sharia will be one of the laws of the land" to "Sharia will be the law of the land."

In light of growing uncertainty and scenes of anarchy and lawlessness throughout Egypt, it is highly likely that General Mohammed Tantawi, head of the military council, and his colleagues will not cede power to a civilian and democratic regime.

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