Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why the coming war on Egypt’s activists will be ferocious

After the Maspero massacre I waited to hear the reaction of the White House and the US State Department. The US has the highest stake in Egypt given the long strategic relationship it had with Egypt’s presidents since Anwar Sadat, not to mention the $1.3 billion in military aid that goes directly to the military junta governing the country today.

Why was I so keen on hearing the reaction from the US? Because I wanted to know whether the Obama adminstration had gotten the message SCAF wanted to deliver ever since they allowed the Israeli embassy to be stormed. And this message can be summarized as follows: it’s either us or chaos in Egypt, it’s either us or sectarian strife. Even though we’re aligned with the coutry’s Islamic parties in order to keep them quiet until we secure our position in new Egypt, we’re the only ones capable of confining their ambitions. We’re the only ones capable of drawing the red lines for them. You might turn out to be lucky in Tunisia, but look at Libya, look at Yemen. In Libya, the radical Islamists who form a large portion of its freedom fighter might very soon start their own fight for a Taliban-style religious state. In Yemen, it might fall into the hands of Al Qaeda if the Saleh regime collapsed. You might risk your stakes in Libya and Yemen, but you definitely don’t want to risk them in strategic Egypt.

Judging from the US’ mild statement after the massacre, I believe SCAF’s message was delivered. And it was not just delivered to the international community, but also to the general public as well. Fear and insecurity dominates the country today, and very few would like to collide with the military junta whom they consider to be the last remaining pillar holding the country together.

This takes us to what I believe will happen to activists in Egypt. After ensuring that there won’t be much of a powerful objection from the inside front nor the international community, I believe SCAF will crackdown on activists and media unprecedentedly.

Just a few hours ago,  the military prosecutor ordered the detainment of popular blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah. Alaa was not the first, he comes after several activists and movements were targeted and intimidated by SCAF.  And why not?  An almost mute general public and fear-filled international community will make the job much more easier.

  Posted by BP at 3:15 pm Comments (5)
Saturday, October 22, 2011

How the death of Mina Danial is symbolic to Copts

If I died, take me to Tahrir. These were the last words uttered by a bloodied Mina Danial as his friends rushed him from Maspero to the hospital. Mina was shot by a bullet that invaded his chest and exited his body from his lower back. He later succumbed to his injuries and passed away. His will was fulfilled on a sad Monday night and the last place Mina went to before going to his final resting place was Tahrir square.

I cannot help but marvel at the amount of symbolism that Mina’s death holds for the Christian community in Egypt. Mina’s evaded death during the 18 days of the revolution yet he got killed 9 months after a revolution that was supposed to prevent such deaths. I believe Mina’s tragic story carries several messages to Coptic Christians as they ponder their future in their ancient homeland.

First, it was believed that Christians did not take part in the revolution of January 25th because they heeded to the call of their Pope who urged otherwise. This is partially true. Just as millions of Muslims remained at home, millions of Christians did the same thing. A poll right after the revolution found out that the vast majority of Egyptians did not take part in any of the protests that took place all over Egypt.  In addition, many Christians’ rightly felt very worried at what the future might hold for them if the Mubarak regime fell. What we know is better than what we don’t know, goes the Egyptian proverb.

However, surrendering to the fact that Christians were not represented in Tahrir would be totally unfair to those who disobeyed the Pope and did participate. It would be totally unfair to those Christians who got killed during the revolution such as Mina Hilal whose memorial pictures graced Tahrir for several months. And of course it would be unfair to Mina Danial who fought the Mubarak regime when no one ever expected Egyptians could rise up against their dictator.

The second symbolic message is the life of Mina himself. He was a young political activist before the revolution. Along with his Muslim fellow activists, he fought the Mubarak regime even if a large portion of Christians thought that this regime would protect them against an unknown future. Mina left the confines of the church walls and participated in his country’s public life, and gave an example of how to love a country that you, as a minority, cannot find justice in. After his death, his sister said “I had many reasons to hate Egypt, but Mina always taught me how to love it.”

The blood of Mina calls out to Christians to follow in his footsteps. To get out of their churches, their ghettos, and join their Muslim fellow countrymen in changing the future of this country even if it looks bleak today. There is simply no other alternative.

There are millions of Muslims out there who long to embrace their Christian countrymen as they make their first steps towards returning back to public and political life. These are the same Muslims who carried Mina’s coffin from the cathedral to Tahrir square.

 

  Posted by BP at 4:25 pm Comments (264)
Monday, October 17, 2011

Who was behind the Maspero Massacre?

I chose to wait until I really ponder about what happened before writing this post. I believe there are 4 scenarios as to who was behind the Maspero massacre.

Scenario 1: Old Regime Infiltrators

We call them “felool”. Nearly every setback in the revolution was blamed on these guys. They’re invisible, never caught and along with “foreign agents” they’re the easiest guys to point the finger at. You don’t have to think much, just blame it on the felool.

So, in order to embarrass the army and create chaos in Egypt, felool agents infiltrated the march and shot at the army. The army soldiers, not used to handling such crowds, had a knee jerk reaction. They shot people dead, crushed them under army vehicles, beat dead bodies and even threw corpses in the Nile River.

The problems with such a scenario are as follows. No heavy casualties were inflicted on army soldiers. The sole dead soldier could have been killed during the infighting that erupted after army soldiers started their mass killing rampage.  And I do not buy any of what SCAF said about keeping their death within their ranks a secret lest they “demoralize their troops”.  Five soldiers and one officer were killed by Israel and we knew their names seconds after their death. Besides, you do not really lift the morale of your troops when you do absolutely nothing when Israeli troops enter the border and kill your troops.  And we all know about SCAF’s absolute inaction after these six police personnel were killed on the borders. So SCAF does not give a hoot about troops’ morale. Hell, you do not help morale when you use army conscripts as forced labor in your businesses and private homes!

In their press conference, SCAF cited another reason for keeping their casualties secret: preserve national harmony. Yea right! You do not preserve national harmony by using state TV to incite your Muslim citizens to take to the streets to “defend the army” from your Christian citizens. This is exactly what happened. And we all know the smallest anchor on state TV does not take a leak unless he or she gets an order to do so.

Scenario 2: A radical Christian

A radical Christian angry at the violent crackdown of the failed sit-in at Maspero a few days before bloody Sunday decided to take matters into his own hands and take revenge. He started shooting at the army causing the havoc we witnessed.

The problems with this scenario are exactly like the preceding one. In addition, there isn’t any evidence proving the presence of neither armed felool nor Christian protesters. Maspero is one of the country’s most strategic and sensitive buildings. The Republican Guards ran to protect it as soon as their rusty vehicles touched the streets of Cairo back in January 28th. This building is equipped with high tech cameras that could have caught the shooters. Yet the only videos we saw so far were of army vehicles mounting over road bumps, human road bumps.

 

Scenario 3: Continuation of SCAF’s creation of chaos

Now, there is one thing that made me implicate SCAF in what happened at Maspero: how the media handled the massacre. It is no secret that SCAF maintains absolute control over state owned media channels.  They even tried harassing independent newspapers by appointing an army general to check headlines before papers are out of the printer.  Journalists reacted swiftly to this new development and several high profile writers left their daily columns empty as a way of protesting the presence of this censor in military uniform.

The third scenario basically indicates that Maspero is a continuation of September 9, the day the Israeli embassy was left to thousands of people for hours. Or what I called in a previous post: The bait of September 9th.  SCAF wants to continue its campaign of creating chaos in order to maintain absolute control over the country’s political future.

Scenario 4: sacrificing the Christians to win the street

This scenario is the most horrific, but I believe it remains to be a possibility.

Let us face the naked truth. Egyptian Christians are not that popular in Egypt and despised by a sizable chunk of the population. Many look upon them with immense suspicion accusing them of seeking a foreign agenda in Egypt and of simply hating Muslims and Islam. If you deny this fact then you are probably living in another country. You do not need to go that far to see this truth. Just read many of the comments left on Christian’s related news to know that things are not sweet and dandy here. Why things are that bad? Because of these reasons: Al Azhar is weak, God put oil under Saudi Arabia, Americans still insist on driving these gas-guzzling SUVs and thus make Saudis more rich and Christians responded to Muslim radicalism with their own radicalism.

It is very possible that SCAF played the two against each other to win the sentiment of a large portion of the street. By portraying Christians as the aggressors, SCAF would gain popularity it needs especially after it lately came under criticism from even former allies such as Selim el Awaa for example.

This scenario, if true, appears to be succeeding. My mother was walking in Heliopolis club, one of the most elitist sporting clubs of Egypt, and overheard someone saying, “these Coptic dogs, they’re shooting at the army”.

Divide and conquer. In Egypt, it is divide and maintain the interests and benefits you enjoyed during Mubarak. Even exceed them.

 

  Posted by BP at 9:38 am Comments (31)
Monday, October 10, 2011

Testimony of Maspero Massacre

By: Hani Bushra

This is my testimony about the attack that I suffered in downtown Cairo on October 9, 2011:

I began to hear on the TV and on twitter that things were escalating in the Maspero area, and so I called a friend and we decided to go to Tahrir Square. We took the metro and we were there by 8 p.m.

When we arrived in Tahrir Square, I could smell the tear gas in the air, and some people were running back from Abedl Moniem Reyad square towards Tahrir. I and my friends went ahead and walked to Abedl Moniem Reyad square, where there was a battle in rock throwing between some people on our side, and some people coming from Ramsis Hilton towards Tahrir.

I separated from my friends, and I went ahead with the rock throwing people. I got hit by a rock thrown by an army soldier who was throwing rocks from the Ramsis Hilton side. The rock throwing was done by army soldiers and civilians.

Our battle with them succeeded and we marched towards Maspero. The people marching were chanting “Christians and Muslims are one Hand” and I was leading them in saying that. I met with Alaa of manalaa.com and we continued to march towards Maspero.

The group was peaceful, and I was taking pictures using my Ipad. We reached the point where the 6th October bridge exits towards Maspero, and there was a large cordon of police who are members of the Central Security Forces (CSF).  There, I was told not take pictures by people wearing civilian clothing and I fought back saying it was my right.

I began to walk back towards Hilton Ramsis, and suddenly 5 vehicles full of CSF soldiers showed up. People began to pelt them with rocks, destroying the wind shields, and the causing the drivers of the vehicles to panic, thereby hitting into each other and the sides of the road. I and some other people were trying to calm people down into not attacking the vehicles but the people were angry.

At that point, I was alone, and so I began to walk back to Tahrir. I was tweeting at that time.  Someone saw me tweeting and came to me. He asked my name and so I said Hani Sobhi, he then grabbed my wrists to see if I had a cross tattoo, and when he did not find it, he asked for my full name. I said Hani Sobhi Bushra. He asked if I was a Muslim or a Christian, and I said that I was a Christian.

At that point he began to scream for others that he caught a Christian, and people began to gather. They wanted to search me and my bag, and I said that I will not let them, and that it was best to go to an officer. At that point there was about 30 people around me, with some of them punching me on my head.

I began to walk quickly to the cordon of the police that I had just came from. At that point, someone yanked my gold chain from across my neck and took the cross. All I did was to tell him “wow, you are such a man” and I clapped for him. That pissed the people who were with me, and so someone snatched my phone from my belt.

I kept shouting at the thief to give me my phone back, and he said that he will give it to me in front of the police officer. By that time, I was being hit from many people, my ankle was sprained and I was called a “Nossrani (Christian)” dog.

We reached the officer (rank of general), and the first thing that I did was to show him my U.S. passport and told him that I am now under his protection. I told him that I was attacked because I was a Christian. One of the men who is a policeman but wearing civilian clothing began to talk to the general that I was a Christian and that I institigated the mob to attack me and that I am carrying weapons in my bag. The officer, who had seen my passport, told him to shut up. This policeman in the civilian clothing seemed to be the coordinator between the mob and the police.

The general pushed me back behind the cordon of CSF soldiers, but I wanted to get my phone back, and so I went out again. The person who had stolen my phone was right there, and I told the general that I wanted my phone back.

As I was talking to the general, a group of policemen were around me, one of them was behind me poking my butthole with his stick. I turned around and said that if you want to fuck me in the ass, you should be man enough to fuck me in public. At that point the policeman in civilian clothing who had earlier clashed with me called me a liar, and the general once again told him to shut up.

I was assigned a young officer to protect me. My phone was gone, and they wanted to protect me until it was safe. I met two young officers, a first and second lieutenants, who were very respectful and were concerned for me. I told them that I hope that when they grew in their rank, they would always remain this professional. They were so nice that one of them let me use his phone so that I can call Happy and tell him that I was okay.

I mentioned that I was a Christian being attacked by a mob, and the officers told me that I should not mention that I am a Christian because they may not be able to protect me. This was in the midst of at least 400 members of the police! At that point, I was assigned two handlers to stay with me at all times.

I stayed with the CSF units and observed the following:

1)      Four bodies in the lobby of an apartment building that the Egyptian ambulances could not carry because the blood was everywhere and because some of the bodies were in pieces. When I asked my CSF companions (we had became friends) about the bodies, they told me it was three Christians and one Muslim shot by the army and driven over using a humvee (yep, my tax dollars in action, btw, the U.S. gives two billion dollars a year as aid to the Egyptian military).

2)      The members of the CSF were armed with live ammunition, and the order was given in front of me.

3)      One of the CSF companions told me that he beat senseless a Christian man he arrested because it was said that this man was carrying a gun and shooting the people.

4)      The army and not the police were the ones attacking the protestors. In fact, the police was not doing anything.

I was there for about two hours, and then suddenly a mob came to the police saying “Christians where are you, Islam is here”. They were not stopped by anyone but cheered by army units that were parked by the CSF cordon.

I used the confusion with this mob arriving and walked away from my handlers, towards Tahrir. I reached the Kasr El Dobra church, and there I saw another Muslim mob chanting “Christians where are you, Islam is here”. What shocked me is that an army officer with a rank of Lieutenant Colonel was organizing these mobs telling them that they should be the first line of defense and they will stand behind them.

At that point, Tahrir was full of people chanting “Christians where are you, Islam is here”. Someone came to me and said that it was good that I was safe. He said that he was there at the time of my beating. He said that the same mob that attacked me returned and beat two other people senseless because they were Christians. I am thankful that I did not end up in that way.

I connected with Happy at a place called Al Borsa, and was able to get home safely. I am safe, but I am saddened about what happened. This is not religious strife, this is state sponsored terrorism towards the Copts.

 

  Posted by BP at 11:12 am Comments (2)