Saturday, March 22, 2014
If you follow me on Twitter or you’re a frequent reader of my blog, you will realize by now that I am a critic of Egypt’s current regime that took power following the popularly backed coup of last July. The repression and police brutality we’re witnessing now far exceeds what occurred during Mubarak’s 30 years in power. These abuses culminated in the biggest single day massacre of civilians in the history of modern Egypt. The military backed regime’s excesses make us ask the question: was the Muslim Brotherhood a better regime?
My answer is a no. I firmly believe that if the MB leadership were in total, 100%, control of the state, they would have not relented in doing to their opponents exactly what the military backed government is doing to them right now.
A few days before the anti-MB massive demonstration on June 30, 2013, Nader Bakkar, a senior leader in the Salafi Nour Party, said something very profound during an interview with Financial Times. “If June 30 failed, the Brotherhood will turn into an unstoppable beast,” he said. I am not a fan of Bakkar’s religious ideologies, but I do applaud his longsighted political view.
While it’s true that the MB did not fully control institutions such as the police – though it did manage to fire the interior minister and replace him with one of its choosing – and the army, it was slowly but surely extending its tentacles to control Egypt’s other institutions and it was doing pretty well. The entire state media empire for example came under its command to the extent that a literature periodical praised MB strongman Khairat el Shater and placed his picture on its cover page (I have no clue what Shater had to do with literature!). The MB surely had the strongest media arsenal, that included all religious channels and thousands of mosques, yet it still complained about 4 or 5 privately owned channels which it was intimidating and most probably trying to shut down (the MB government did shut down Al Farayeen channel and MB affiliated Prosecutor General summoned Basem Yousef).
From the onset of its victory in the parliament elections, it was clear that the MB had only one aim: to consolidate and monopolize power. That goal was evident when Morsi issued his dictatorial constitutional decree in November 2012 granting himself sweeping powers. What the MB did back in 2012 does not differ that much from what the current leadership is doing now. Both want to consolidate power and exclude their opponents. Take the position of the Prosecutor General for example. During Brotherhood rule, the appointed Prosecutor General was an MB loyalist who served the interests of the ruling political organization. The current Prosecutor General is not that different; he too serves his masters and oppresses their opponents, who are now the MB and its supporters.
The MB also used violence against opposing protesters. The most cited incident took place in December 2012 at the Presidential Palace. The Brotherhood leadership decided to send their cadres to violently break up a sit-in at the Presidential Palace. I saw with my own eyes the MB cadres while they were firing birdshots and throwing rocks at protesters from behind police vans (Ironically, these are the same police vans that are now used to break up MB demonstrations and marches). Scores of protesters were tortured right at the Presidential Palace gates. One man did not disclose his Christian name lest they torture him even more.
Another incident took place near the MB headquarters in Muqattam. The cadres captured tens of protesters and kept them inside the nearby Bilal mosque where they were tortured. Again, Christian protesters inside the mosque received a “special treatment”, courtesy of the Brotherhood.
Would a Brotherhood-led government have committed a massacre such as Rabaa? Judging from how the MB reacted after the “mini-Rabaa” that happened during its rule; the answer is yes it would have committed a similar crime against its opponents if it had full control over the state and its guns. The “mini-Rabaa” I am referring to is the Port Said prison massacre that happened in January 2013. 52 people were gunned down by the police in a few minutes when families of convicts tried to storm the prison to protest a court verdict. The MB cadres on social media were fully supportive of what the police did citing various justifications such as “the families were armed” and “they tried to storm a prison”. These justifications are similar to what pro-army folks say to justify the Rabaa massacre that happened after the MB lost power. The Port Said prison massacre triggered the first mass revolt against MB rule since they reached power.
Even though Rabaa was by far bloodier than Port Said, the reaction of both parties in both instances proves that there is no profound different between supporters of the Brotherhood and supporters of military fascism. Both incidents had a tiny minority of armed protesters that killed policemen. One policeman was killed in Port Said, 8 were killed in Rabaa. The Brotherhood supporters blamed the armed minority after Port Said just as the military supporters blamed the armed minority after Rabaa. Nobody blamed the police officers for their brutality and reiterated that the presence of an armed tiny minority does not justify a massacre, except a few revolutionaries and human rights activists.
Lastly, what happened at the Presidential Palace during Morsi’s tenure is another indication that, if they saw the need, nothing would have hindered a Brotherhood-led government from killing its opponents. As mentioned above, the MB cadres tortured people at the presidential palace gates and in a mosque and he who tortures at the presidential palace gates and in mosques can do anything else.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Even though he hasn’t officially announced his presidential bid yet, all indications point to the fact that Field Marshal El-Sisi will run for president. Everything that is now happening in Egypt is viewed from only one prism: El-Sisi’s nomination. When the Biblawy cabinet was sacked, observers immediately jumped into the conclusion that the move was aimed at releasing El-Sisi from his job as defense minister so he can announce his candidacy. When it turned out that El-Sisi will remain defense ministers in the new cabinet, observers changed their theory: unable to stop the increasing labor strikes, Biblawy was sacked in the hope that the new Prime Minister will succeed, even if by a small degree, in solving some of the country’s problems – such as labor strikes and power shortages- and eventually smoothen El-Sisi’s passage to the presidential palace.
Just like everything which is going on right now in Egypt, we cannot know for sure why the Biblawy government resigned. We can only speculate. However, when it comes to El-Sisi’s nomination for president, we do have enough evidence and events to indicate that his nomination is the most likely scenario. Now the question is: what will happen if, just like his predecessors, President El-Sisi failed to meet the ever rising expectations of Egyptians? And what will Egypt look like if by some miracle El-Sisi managed to pull the country out of the abyss it is in now?
What can happen if El-Sisi failed?
If El-Sisi failed to save Egypt’s economy and improve the lives of millions who have been suffering during the past three years, the masses could react in two ways. First, they could do what they did best during Mubarak’s 30 years era: do nothing. Second, the masses could start taking to the streets against the same person whom they glorify today. Judging from the past three years, it is hard to believe that Egyptians, especially the young generation, will settle down again. The genie is out of the bottle.
I touched upon that question in a previous post. I argued that if El-Sisi failed to save Egypt’s economy and if the current repression continued, I won’t be surprised if another mass revolt happened. If the current rate of killing and imprisoning young people continued, a new generation of non-Isalmist revolutionaries might rise in the future who, in light of the absence of an alternative opposition, might not mind joining forces with the Muslim Brotherhood to fight the oppressing state. These revolutionaries will be too young to remember the Brotherhood’s betrayal of the revolution in 2011 or their dreadful one year in power. If the economy becomes worse by then, the poor might join these forces and usher in another uprising. However, this time it will not be peaceful. The “violence bar” is already very high now; imagine how higher it could get three or four years from now. Unfortunately, any new uprising will not do the country any good since Egypt cannot withstand another revolution. The state will collapse.
One of the reasons why I don’t want El-Sisi to run is what I mentioned above. Whether we like it or not, the army is the only institution left standing in Egypt which is barely holding the country together. It is the only entity that Egyptians trust. By endorsing El-Sisi’s presidential bid, the army generals acted like members of a civilian political party and have pinned the future popularity of the military institution to El-Sisi’s performance as president. This is a very dangerous gamble, and a very serious mistake that El-Sisi and his colleagues have done.
It seems that Egypt’s patrons in the Gulf also share my viewpoint. A month ago, Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid expressed his hope that El-Sisi does not run for president. ”I hope he remains in the military, and that another person [runs] for the presidency,” he said. The editor in chief of Al Sharq Al Sawsat newspaper and the General Manager of Al Arabiya news channel, Abdul Rahman Al Rashid, wrote an op-ed advising El-Sisi not to run for president. It is widely believed that Al Rashid is close to the Saudi royal family.
What can happen if El-Sisi succeeded?
If El-Sisi miraculously managed to save the economy and improved the lives of the masses, he will truely be the next Gamal Abdul Nasser to the masses and an Erdogan – a more despotic version though- to democracy and revolution advocates. Erdogan’s autocracy started to surface when he concluded that the majority will still vote for him because he improved the economy and there is no other viable alternative to his party’s rule. We still have to see whether Erdogan’s conclusion is correct when Turks go to the polls this March and later in June, but it seems that this is what he believes right now.
El-Sisi, an already sole ruler in Egypt, will most likely continue exhibiting every characteristic of a despotic ruler if he succeeded as president. Even if he tried to show goodwill at the onset of his presidency, as Nathan Brown suggests here, he will most likely return back to business as usual especially if the people continued endorsing him as the country’s sole leader who managed to save it.
So yes, Egypt, an Arab Spring nation, will not fare well if El-Sisi failed or if he succeeded. Two things can spare us this fate. First, El-Sisi, whether willingly or not, decided to be different and adopt a more conciliatory and democratic approach. Judging from the past months, this looks unlikely. Second, a third alternative to the military and the Islamists emerged on the long run. This is exactly what Egypt needs, a truly democratic political force that will save us from the military-Islamist seesaw.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Ahmed Hossam, better known as Mido, is the manager of the Zamalek soccer team, the second most popular club in Egypt. At 32 years old, Mido is the youngest manager in the Egyptian premier league. A few days ago he was interviewed on a popular talk show where he openly expressed his admiration of Field Marshal El-Sisi and lambasted the Muslim Brotherhood. His comments were followed by immense criticism on Egyptian social media. Zamalek fans and others, all young Egyptians, criticized Mido for talking about politics instead of focusing on his job. That was ironic because Egypt, since 3 years ago, had nothing to talk about except politics. Mido got the message, he promised his followers on Twitter that he will refrain from talking about politics again.
This incident is a small indication of the behavioral change we’re witnessing in Egypt’s youth, especially the urban young, vis-a-vis politics and the current events that are unfolding in a country that seems to have turned its back to the youth-triggered revolution of 2011. The question of why the younger generation of Egyptians are feeling alienated from the current political discourse arose when they were virtually absent at the last constitution referendum. When I went to cast my ballot, I looked around and found that I was the youngest voter in the entire polling station. I am 34 years old.
The change in attitude and behavior of the younger generation is emanating from a mixture of both apathy and disgust at how the country is moving forward especially after the July 3rd popularly backed coup which was supported by millions including large segments of the youth.
It seems that many young people are now feeling apathetic towards the current political events in Egypt. This is the result of the return of many of Mubarak’s era way of doing things. Take the last referendum for example. Even though the ballots were not forged, the process was not fair. “No” campaigners were arrested and the media, both private and public, unleashed a hysterical campaign to encourage people to vote yes. “Why would I bother and tire myself to vote?” a colleague told me. “We all knew the result would be a yes”. My colleague is not pro-Brotherhood; in fact she is a Christian in her late twenties.
Many youth, especially, those who participated in the January 2011 revolution, feel disgusted at the how events have turned after the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, specifically in regards to the abuses and excesses of the period that followed. The current police brutality and crimes we’re witnessing are unprecedented; they did not even happen during Mubarak. Many of the victims are young people including university students who were killed inside their university campuses. The crackdown has even reached young people who were supportive of the July 3 political order. Two young men who signed the Tamarod petition were gunned down during anti-government protests in Suez and Cairo. . “Even those who did June 30 (the mass demonstration that preceded Morsi’s ouster) are in jail,” I heard a Cairo downtown young street vendor tell his colleague. “Aren’t April 6 members in jail now?” he continued.
These state sanctioned, and unfortunately public condoned, measures did not shift the majority of the youth towards the pro-Morsi camp but I’ve noted before in a previous post that I noticed a rise in the number of young people who decided to join the pro-Morsi demonstrations. The current regime is losing the young generation especially those living in urban areas. These are the ones who triggered the last two mass revolts in Egypt, which toppled two presidents. I hope whomever wants to become president of this country is paying enough attention to this development.
Saturday, February 8, 2014
A few months ago I tweeted that I didn’t think Major General – now Field Marshal – Abdel Fatah El Sisi would run for president. “God does not become a prophet,” I said. Why would he run for such a difficult – and cursed – job and compromise his popularity? It looks like I was wrong. It seems Egypt’s throne is too enticing for many people.
In this post, I won’t discuss why I think it is wrong for El-Sisi to run for president. Many articles and op-eds touched on that topic when it became clear that El-Sisi wants to become Egypt’s next president. I will discuss, as a pragmatist, what I think is one of the army’s most dangerous gambles and why the institution as a whole is compromising its status in Egypt by fulfilling El-Sisi’s 35 years old dream of becoming “Egypt’s leader”.
Whether we like it or not, the Egyptian army is the only entity holding Egypt together at the moment. My pro-revolution friends often laugh at the saying that “the army is the last pole holding the tent up.” This saying is true, it is a fact. The reason why many people are crazy about El-Sisi is not because they’re in love with his persona per se as much as they see in him the only remaining strongman who can save them and bring the country back to normal. They know that the army is the last standing institution that can bring some stability after 3 years of chaos and insecurity. El-Sisi is adored by million because he is the army chief and not because he is El-Sisi.
By agreeing to nominate a president, the army acted like a political party and entered the fray of Egypt’s politics. That fray ranges from fighting jihadists in North Sinai to getting blamed for the increasing price of tomatoes. By stepping in into the Egyptian political quagmire, the army agreed to be on the front line of Egypt’s current war with things like gas prices, power cuts, the price of cooking oil, and the austerity measures that will most likely happen if the country is to depend on itself and not just on aid from the Gulf countries – the Saudis and Emiratis can’t go on feeding 90 million people forever.
The question now is this: what if the army’s candidate failed? What if President El-Sisi failed to meet the already soaring expectations of the people? What if after three or four years people discovered that El-Sisi – the army’s candidate – is as incompetent as his predecessors and ended up losing trust in the only institution still standing in Egypt?
My pro-revolution friends would love that to happen. “Let the army fails so people can learn that military rule is not the answer,” a pro-revolution friend told me. I would have agreed with him if we had alternatives to both the Islamists and the army. Unfortunately, till now, we don’t have any third option. If the army candidate failed and people lost trust in the institution that nominated him, anything could happen including a second revolutionary wave that the country will not withstand.
I would have preferred if the army stayed away from politics. It is better for Egypt and better for the army itself. However, it seems that the army sees the issue from a different perspective. Either the army is afraid to relinquish the rule of Egypt one more time or it’s just that the throne is too sweet in the eyes of its chief, or both.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
A few months ago I went to check out a pro-Morsi demonstration. I have seen almost every pro-Brotherhood demonstration since 2011, this one had something different: a lot of youth participants. I saw young men who appeared to be university students and “ultras looking” teens marching in the demonstration while beating drums and flashing the Rabaa sign. While the majority of the demonstrators looked “Islamist”, I don’t recall seeing that number of young people in the Brotherhood demonstrations in 2011 and 2012 who were mostly middle aged men and women shipped in buses from the Delta and Upper Egypt.
It is unclear what caused the increase in youth participation in pro-Morsi demonstrations but one of the very possible reasons could be the number of young people who were either killed by the police or unjustly sent to jail since the army ousted Mohamed Morsi following the massive anti-Brotherhood protests on June 30, 2013. Four Cairo University students were killed on campus so far; that never happened since the day Princess Fatma Ismael decided to donate her jewelry pieces to fund the foundation of Cairo University around 100 years ago. Three other students were killed in Al Azhar University, also on campus. These eight students are just a fraction of the number of young people who were killed during demonstrations; a few of them were not even supporters of the Brotherhood. Sayed Weza, 19, a member of the Tamarod movement that was pivotal in ousting Morsi from power, chose to demonstrate against the current regime during the third anniversary of the January 25th revolution. He was gunned down by a police officer in downtown Cairo. Kill or imprison a young person, and his/her Facebook friends will take to the streets against you.
While the number of youth in the pro-Morsi demonstration is an interesting development worth of analysis, I’m not claiming that Egypt’s youth have shifted to the pro-Morsi or the pro-Brotherhood camp. In spite of the Brotherhood’s popularity loss due to their dreadful year in power, pro-Morsi are still violently doing things like preventing other students from taking exams, storming exam classrooms and instigating clashes with the police forcing them to enter the university campuses. The majority of youth are not becoming pro-Morsi, they’re becoming pro-apathy. That was evident in the latest referendum that a considerable portion of youth – especially in the urban areas – have boycotted.
It seems that Egypt’s urban youth -the ones who triggered the revolution – are mostly becoming politically apathetic; a smaller minority is joining the pro-Morsi camp. What could such a development yield in the future, let’s say after three or four years?
If the coming president, no matter who he might turn out to be, continues the current repression and police brutality, there will most probably be another generation of young revolutionaries who might be willing to join the Brotherhood in its demonstrations and clashes with the state. I am talking about 18 and 19 year olds who will not remember the Brotherhood’s betrayal of the January 2011 revolution. These young revolutionaries will not be Brotherhood members or even Islamists, they will be like Sayed Weza, young independent activists who will not mind joining forces with the Brotherhood, the only opposition till now, to fight the existing regime. However, the activists and the Brotherhood will still not be sufficient to tilt the balance; they will need another force with them, namely the poor. If the next president did not fix the economy, if he did not meet today’s high expentations, the poor might join whatever the new revolutionaries and the Brotherhood will trigger and we might end up with the third mass revolt in Egypt in 6 or 7 years. However, if that scenario happened, Egypt will officially become a failed state and decent into a far darker abyss. The country cannot withstand another revolution. Only fixing the economy and keeping the poor away from the streets can save the next president from the fate of his two predecessors.
Friday, January 24, 2014
During the 2012 parliament elections, Delta and Upper Egypt, Egypt’s largest voting blocks, voted overwhelmingly for the Islamist parties whether the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis. Observers back then concluded the obvious: Islamist power is concentrated in the underdeveloped poor regions of Egypt.
During the presidential elections, when we started to notice shifts away from the Islamists due to their dreadful performance in parliament, Delta surprised us all by voting for Shafik and Hamdeen Sabahy in stage one, it voted for Shafik in stage two. While the rural areas in Delta voted for the MB candidate, the cumulative vote of Delta was in favor of Shafik. Morsi won in Upper Egypt by a landslide. In fact, without Upper Egypt, Morsi would have lost the popular vote in all of Egypt.
In the 2014 referedum, the turnout in Delta was very high compared to other regions in Egypt. Turnout in 2014 increased by a whopping 13.5 percentage points versus the 2012 referendum.
Why Delta, which is as poor and illiterate as Upper Egypt, votes differently now? Why did the majority there turn against the Islamists? I believe a big part of the reason lies in the sectarianism in Upper Egypt; it has the highest concentration of Christians in Egypt. The Delta voter is not concerned so much with “the other”, he or she is relaxed and can freely turn against the Islamists without caring about siding with the neighboring “enemy”. The neighbor there is Muslim. Sectarianism is rampant in Upper Egypt, most sectarian conflicts happen there and the “Muslim vs Christian” conflict constitute a huge part of the voters’ psyche.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Cairo proved to be very anti-MB. It voted for Shafik in the presidential elections, voted “No” in the 2012 referendum and in 2014 the turnout increased by 5.5 percentage points versus 2012. These results indicate clearly that the urban middle class has turned against the Brotherhood, which is also evident in the professional syndicates where the MB has been losing one election after the other (MB started losing syndicate elections during Morsi’s term).
Giza, which is opposite to Cairo on the other side of the Nile, is composed of affluent urban areas and very poor semi-urban semi-rural neighborhoods such as Kirdasa, the scene of the gruesome lynching of policemen after police cracked down on the pro-Morsi camps last August. The affluent areas including the poor urban neighborhoods such as Imbaba witnessed high turnout in the 2014 referendum (poor urban areas in Cairo and Giza turned against the MB since the presidential elections). The other more rural oriented areas which are densely populated with voters remained Islamist strongholds and hence Giza as a whole witnessed a decline in turnout by 2.5 percentage points (-2.5% versus 2012).
Once dubbed as the bastion of Salafism in Egypt, the picturesque Mediterranean city proved this assumption wrong since the first stage of the presidential elections when Hamdeen Sabahy came in first. Even though Alex does have a large Salafi voting base, it looks as if it has more urban middle class voters who, like their Cairo counterparts, have turned against the Brotherhood. Alexandria witnessed a 2.2 percentage points increase in 2014.
The surprise! This huge area of Egypt, composed of urban cities and rural villages, voted overwhelmingly for the Islamists in the parliament elections and we all thought that this fertile land which is nestled between the two branches of the Nile will be in Islamists’ hands forever. That was understandable back then. Delta is poor, very conservative and with a high rate of illiteracy, the perfect soil for Islamists to use religion for their political gains. Delta proved us wrong and broke this correlation.
Delta voted for Shafik and Sabahy in stage one of the presidential elections, Shafik in stage two. In the 2014 referendum, Delta had a whopping increase in turnout by 13.5 percentage points, the largest increase across Egypt.
Upper Egypt has almost the same socioeconomic characteristics of Delta yet it did not exhibit the same voting pattern. Turnout in this region declined by 3.9 percentage points even though the tourist areas Luxor and Aswan had an increase in turnout versus 2012. Upper Egypt remains the largest stronghold of Islamist power in Egypt. Morsi would have lost the presidential elections if it wasn’t for the votes he won in Upper Egypt.
How UE behaved in referendum 2014 indicates that the power of the so-called families and tribes is overestimated. These large powerful clans, who vote according to a deal stricken by whomever is in power and their chief, are definitely large in number but it looks as if they’re not large enough to sway the entire region towards a particular vote.
(My future post will explain why Delta and Upper Egypt behave differently despite their similar socioeconomic conditions)
The Suez Canal cities are Port Said, Islamailia, and Suez. The first two had an increase in turnout but turnout declined in Suez. Port Said, which rose up against Morsi and the Brotherhood early this year following the Port Said Prison massacre, had a 13 percentage points increase. The effect of how the mood changed in Port Said is very evident in the large increase in turnout.
Ismailia, where people played football with army soldiers during Morsi’s imposed curfew, had a 3.2 percentage points increase. Ironically, Ismailia was the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood organization.
Suez, on the other hand, had a negative turnout (38.7% in 2012 vs 34.5% in 2014). The city has a large Islamist voting base which affected the turnout in this referendum.
Matruh and Fayoum:
Matruh and Fayoum are two governorates with a very significant Salafi base. They had the highest decline in turnout across Egypt, -20.2% and -11.5% respectfully. The vote in Matruh and Fayoum proves that the Salafi Nour Party, which supported the June 3 roadmap, did nothing to turn out the Salafi vote. The Nour Party, the only Islamist entity in the post-July 3 establishment, just wants a seat around the table and it is willing to become the current regime’s “Islamist fig leaf” to get that seat.
Red Sea and South Sinai
The most important tourist areas in Egypt. Both witnessed a positive increase in turnout. Voters there voted for tourists to come back.
Unexpectedly, North Sinai had a slight increase in turnout versus 2012 (0.4%). This area is witnessing continuous fighting between the Egyptian army and jihadists. Observers, including myself, believe that military actions in this part of Sinai is doing little in winning hearts and minds of the civilians there. The turnout was a surprise to me. Is public opinion shifting in favor of the military or are civilians tired of the current situation that they believe voting for the constitution might bring stability to their turbulent region?
Friday, July 19, 2013
Myth# 1: State institutions worked against Morsi as soon as he became president
This is one of the biggest myths that aim at justifying the Brotherhood colossal mismanagement of the country. While it is true that the Brotherhood did not exert full control over a number of state institutions, namely the army and the judiciary, all other state apparatus were under their direct control. As soon as former President Morsi assumed power, the Brotherhood frantically worked on consolidating their power in the various ministries and governorates. Take Maspero for example, the state owned media empire comprising of many TV and radio channels. As soon as Morsi entered the presidential palace, Maspero did what it does best for the past 60 years: glorify whoever is running the country.
Even the Ministry of Interior, the Brotherhood might have failed to win the hearts and minds of the young officers, but they had enough control to sack the ministry’s top commander and appoint someone who they thought would be loyal to them. Mohamed Ibrahim, the minister of interior whom the Brotherhood appointed, tried as much as possible to remain loyal to his bosses until June 30 came looming. Days before the big day, young officers at the newly formed Police Officers Club announced they won’t be repeating the same mistake of the January 25th revolution and they won’t side with a political faction anymore. They said that they will not secure any Muslim Brotherhood (MB) offices and will just be present at the police and government buildings. Under pressure from his young officers, Mohamed Ibrahim had to choose between pleasing his subordinates or his boss. Days before the storm, he chose to please the former. It was a smart gamble. The MB were not in total control over the ministry of interior but judging from the speed of at which they were extending their tentacles over the other government institutions I expected the ministry of interior to totally succumb anytime soon. After June 30, signs of their attempt to infiltrate the ministry started to surface. 3 high ranking police officers at the National Security department were transferred from their positions because of their alleged ties to Brotherhood leaders.
The judiciary was another institution that was at odds with the MB. To tame the judges, the MB was trying to pass a law that would have severed 3000 judges. Critics of the law believed that the MB would have filled the seats of the severed judges with their own sympathizers. I believe if the MB had come out unharmed out of June 30, the judiciary law would have been the first thing they passed to exert total control over the justice system.
The Ministry of Culture was another ministry the MB appointed a sympathizer to. His first decision was to fire Enas Abdel Dayem, the manager of the Cairo Opera House back then. His decision caused an uproar because of the popularity of Abdel Dayem at the Opera and among artists. The MB and their ilk were in control of the country’s most important ministries to the extent that they had the time to pick up a fight with the opera house manager!
So the belief that all state institutions were working against the MB is a pure myth. While a number of institutions were resisting their control, the others, especially the public service institutions, succumbed to the new rulers. The vast majority of Egypt’s state bureaucracy will serve whoever pays the salary at the end of the month.
Myth#2: the media was fighting the MB
That is another delusion. When the MB was whining about alleged media bias, they were basically referring to 6 or 7 private satellite channels. Here is a list of the media channels the MB had under their direct control: the entire empire of the state owned media (we’re talking about a wide array of TV channels, radio channels and publications), Al Jazeera, the MB owned TV channel and newspaper, the various religious channels and above all thousands of mosques all over the country!
The MB had all these media channels under their disposal yet they were unable to communicate properly and whitewash their disastrous one year in power.
Myth#3: Tamarod was created by the military
This myth stems from the news reports (here and here) that surfaced indicating that Tamarod had contacts with the army via a third party.
First, it is not quite obvious what kind of help Tamarod got from the army. It can hardly be financial because I’ve seen how Tamarod worked. It was purely based on grassroots activism. Everyone was encouraged to photocopy the petition and collect signatures and hand it over to the campaign. I myself photocopied 300 EGP worth of petitions and gave them to a group of Tamarod activists who were collecting signatures in Shubra. I visited their official headquarters, a simple apartment in an old rundown downtown building. I saw young men and women counting petitions in the excruciating heat of Cairo because the AC was broken. Tamarod depended solely on people activism and the generosity of Egyptians who printed petitions on their own expense. And believe me, there were a lot of rich Egyptians out there who hated the MB and were ready to print loads of petitions and support the campaign financially.
Second, assuming that Tamarod was an army creation, I personally didn’t have an army gun pointed at my head when I signed the petition. No army soldier came to my house on June 30 and ordered me to take to the streets. The millions who signed the petitions and demonstrated afterwards did so by their own freewill and this renders any alleged Tamarod-army conspiracy irrelevant.
So this is what I believe happened. The army sensed that June 30 might be big especially after Tamarod went viral. They knew that if the numbers turned out to be huge, they had to act and topple Morsi especially after their months of acrimony. It made perfect sense from a purely political perspective to open a line of communication, via a third party, with the movement that would later lead the largest gathering of Egyptians in history.
Myth# 4: Someone created the gas lines and power cuts to turn people against the MB before June 30
That conspiracy theory appeared in a New York Times report written by my Twitter friend David Kirkpatrick. Ever since I read that report, I’ve been sending David and the New York Times pictures, tweets and news reports of gas lines and power cuts that happened and continue to happen after June 30! Follow me on Twitter because I’m keeping track!
Wasn’t there a huge fuel crisis before June 30? Yes and it ended a few days before June 30! The crisis was caused by the massive panic attack that people which made them flock to gas stations to fill their tanks before the big day.
I fully understand that myths around June 30 will continue to arise simply because many people do not understand how millions took to the street to demand a military coup. Well, it just happened. Some political textbooks need to be revised.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Two possible scenarios, but before I mention them, let’s make two facts very clear.
Fact One: Army is murderous & trigger happy
This is not the first time the army and police killed scores of people. They did so when SCAF was in power and during Brotherhood rule as well. Army troops in particular are not trained to deal with civilians, not mentioning armed civilians. They are similar to the teens from Alabama the US government sent to man checkpoints in Iraq. Couple their lack of training with their disregard to any human rights; you end up having creatures that turn into mass murderers in any given melee.
Fact Two: The Brotherhood are armed
I heard a bullet myself in Maspero. Last weekend, the Brotherhood decided to go protest at Maspero, the state owned media complex not far from Tahrir. Upon my arrival there I saw MB trying to reach Tahrir via the October 6th exit. Tahrir protesters were trying to stop them by throwing rocks and firing fireworks. They pushed the MB back and took control of the bridge. I was basically seeing and hearing the things I witnesses before in clashes during the past two and a half years: rocks, fireworks and occasionally birdshots. Suddenly it came invading my ears; the sound you hear in old cowboy and Indians movies, the whistle sound a bullet makes when it hits a wall. The Maspero clashes ended when armed locals from the area came and drove the MB away.
Another proof the MB had weapons is much more obvious than the whistle sound I heard at Maspero. Last week the MB were involved in clashes with protesters and locals in Bayn El Sarayat, Manial, Maspero, Sidi Gaber and Assiut – not mentioning the other battles that occurred in the provinces but were not thoroughly covered by the local media. Bayn El sarayat is very near the other MB sit-in in front of Cairo University. Since the MB had weapons there, we can presume they also had weapons at the Rabaa and Republic Guards Club (RGC) sit-ins. These were the major deadly clashes that witnessed the death of tens including MB who aggravated locals with their violence and assault on their neighborhoods.
Lastly, an army officer, a policeman and a soldier were shot dead during the RGC shootings. An army officer was shot from a high position (possibly a roof) and is now in a serious condition. A witness whom The New Yorker interviewed confirmed that he saw and heard shooting coming from the protesters side.
Scenario 1: Army wanted to break the sit-in
The army wanted to end the RGC sit-in and thus it was the generals who instigated the violence. The RGC sit-in is right on one of Cairo’s main avenues and is in the middle of high profile military institutions. It’s also possible that the army might have had intelligence on the presence of weapons inside the sit-in and decided to storm it.
According to witnesses, tear gas was used at the initial phase of the shooting. The usage of heavy tear gas usually precedes the storming of a particular sit-in.
Scenario 2: PR stunt by the MB
The Brotherhood is cornered. It lost the power seat it wanted for the past eighty years in just one year. The popularity of the MB went on a downward spiral and only an incident like that could win them some support especially outside Egypt. The intrernational community was the last card the MB was playing when the anti-Morsi protests grew to the millions. So the MB did in fact attack the RGC to provoke the RGC soldiers to commit the massacre to allow the MB a golden opportunity to plead their case in front of an already sympathetic international media.
Can the MB actually do this to itself? Yes. Even though the MB had renounced violence, it is still not distant enough from the dogma of suicide bombings and martyrdom. Almost every known terrorist had an encounter with the MB at one point in his life. Killing the poor souls you brainwash for political gains is not a far thing from the MB mind.
When the army moved in to storm the sit-in, the MB fired and that was enough to cause the knee jerk reaction from our trigger happy soldiers.
Friday, July 5, 2013
Whenever the Brotherhood wanted to prove that Egypt under their authority was going in the right direction, they pointed to Inar – a tablet made by Benha Electronics. They dubbed it as the first tablet to be made in Egypt. Inar was an important component of the Brotherhood’s achievements list to the extent that former President Morsi talked about it in his historical Qaddafi-style 2 hours and 30 minutes speech (he referred to Inar as the “first Egyptian iPad”! Me hope Apple did not hear that).
Well, putting aside the fact that plans for Inar started in 2007 (i.e during Mubarak’s reign), the tablet is made from locally assembled electronic components that are mostly coming from abroad. In other words, Inar is not an Egyptian invention. The tablet itself is not an Egyptian invention. We stopped inventing stuff, until Sunday June 30th 2013. On that day we invented the PLC: Popularly Legitimate Coup.*
Yes, it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck. Yes it is a coup. However, it is a “coup but”. It is a coup supported by the largest gathering of Egyptians in human history. I am an Egyptian, I have been living here for all my life and I’ve never seen before what I saw this week. I have been involved in almost every major demonstration since the 2011 revolution, what I saw this week is staggering. The numbers, especially on June 30th, far exceeded the numbers of who participated in the January revolution to oust Mubarak. People from all walks of Egyptian life thronged squares and streets even if no demonstrations were called for (take a look at this video shot by army helicopters on June30). If you call this a coup without adding the “but” then you’re not seeing the full picture at all. After seeing the magnitude of the demonstrations and their geographical reach, I can comfortably conclude that June 30 and the days that followed reflected what the majority of Egyptians wanted.
I wrote before on why Egyptians revolted against their elected regime. I just want to add that it was the Brotherhood who brought us to this stage. It was their political greed and mismanagement of the country that forced millions to the streets to demand General Al-Sisi to topple President Morsi. Washington and Europe had a role in June 30 as well. Aside from the few public statements here and there, both stayed silent in front of the Brotherhood’s abuses and seizure of absolute power. Last April I was in D.C trying to convince US policymakers and officials to exert more pressure and use the leverage that the US has in Egypt to force the Brotherhood to reform politically. With every meeting I had in Washington I became convinced that the Obama Administration chose to be just a spectator.
It is understandable why many in the West cannot understand the legitimacy behind PLC. In the West, facets of democracy such as an inclusive constitution, human rights, inclusive politics, bills of rights and rule of law are taken for granted. Elections is the only facet they practice every 4 or 5 years. In Egypt, we just had one facet of democracy, elections, and the Brotherhood deprived us from all the other facets that Westerners take for granted. President Obama was right when he told Morsi in their final telephone conversation that “democracy is more than elections”. Unfortunately, the advise was too late. Toppling elected regime happened before, especially in Argentina, Egyptians this time sought the help of the only state institution they trust: the army.
PLC is a product of the recent sociopolitical circumstances in Egypt. It is purely an Egyptian invention and it seems they are happy with it. They see it as a way to remedy the mistake they have done one year ago. It is the same mistake the Germans and Italians did before World War Two. We’re not better than the Germans and the Italians.
*The term Popularly Legitimate Coup was coined by H.A. Hellyer