How Egypt’s New Rulers are Silencing Their Only Opposition
I have stated before that there are three main players on Egypt’s political stage: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the revolutionaries.
Judging from current events on the ground, it is quiet apparent that SCAF and MB have managed to reach some sort of a “power deal” or an understanding between them. The agreement is not coherent nor officially documented and it did have its own ups and downs. It was basically born out of the mutual interests of both parties. The SCAF want to hand over power while retaining as much Mubarak-era benefits as possible. The MB just want to enjoy and celebrate what post-Mubarak Egypt have unexpectedly bestowed on them.
The third player is the revolutionaries; a mosaic of Egyptians from all walks of life who are determined to continue the revolution till all its demands are met. They are young, old, Muslims, Christians, well off and poor. Some of their girls don the nikab, others do not cover their hair. You cannot even group them ideologically. They range from the anarchists to the salafis. Yet the bulk do not adhere to a specific ideology.
The revolutionaries are the most difficult to satisfy. SCAF just want to retain their economical interests and independence. The MB just want the seat they’ve been drooling over for the past 80 years. The revolutionaries are different though. You cannot throw them a bone. These people are willing to die or lose an eye for their cause. This is the reason why they’re a pain in the neck to whoever is calling the shots in Egypt. This is the reason why the other two players in the above pie would rather see them silenced, weakened and above all tarnished.
SCAF’s war against the revolutionaries started days after the toppling of Mubarak. With the bulk of those who participated in the January revolution gone from Tahrir, SCAF made sure to obliterate the remaining hardcore protesters who would not relent until all revolution’s demands were met. And we all know what befell those protesters last year: military trials, torture inside Cairo’s museum, virginity tests, violent crackdowns on sit-ins and a state media orchestrated campaign to tarnish whoever remained in Tahrir after February 11.
Since the revolutionaries are so diverse and unorganized, SCAF needed a sole body to direct the campaign towards. April 6, probably the only organized and coherent body besides the MB became the target. SCAF were so successful in their fear mongering campaign to the extent that the mere mention of the words “April 6” to average apolitical Egyptians today would send chills of fear down their spines.
After securing the majority of seats in parliament, it seems that the MB are joining SCAF in their attempts to silence and tarnish their common rival in the Egyptian political equation. A month before the scheduled protests on January 25th, SCAF started yet another scare mongering campaign targeting that day. They spoke of plans to “burn the country” by certain groups and “hidden hands.” It was very surprising to see the MB joining this campaign. Secured by the number of seats they won, the MB wanted to be the only legitimate voice of the people, in other words, the only voice to be heard.
Their campaign started by picking another group this time besides April 6. It was the Revolutionary Socialists’ (RevSoc) turn. The workers advocacy group that supported the MB back in 2007 when Mubarak’s security apparatus cracked down on them. On December 24, MB’s official newspaper carried a main headline that read: RevSoc…Violence Comes First. MB attacks even reached independent women who participated in a march denouncing violence against female protesters by army soldiers back in December. MB’s head of Women Affairs, Manal Aboul Hassan, said in a newspaper interview that those who participated in the march received foreign funds and have an agenda of their own. After the backlash her statement caused, she claimed the newspaper twisted what she actually said and promised to show a recording of the actual interview. This recording has not surfaced up till now.
The attempts to silence or drown protesters’ voice continued till January 25th. On the night of that day, the MB descended on Tahrir and built the largest stage there. And for the very first time they placed loud speakers in almost every corner of the square. Their goal was clear: to “drown” the protesters and to dominate the square. The message was: I am the parliament, I am the people and you shut up. I have an understanding with SCAF and I won’t allow you to disrupt it.
They were up to a big surprised though. Masses of protesters joined the marches to Tahrir from the four corners of Cairo and it was the MB who got drowned and not the other way round. They had, again for the first time, to beam Quran out of their loud speakers in order to cover up the chants coming from the throngs around them.
The above leads us to a very important current question: will the Ultras, the hardcore soccer fans who proved to be instrumental in the revolution and who were the main victims of the Port Said massacre, end up being the next target? They are as organized as April 6. They can mobilize and they’re starting to be politically active. They have all the necessary elements to make them detested by Egypt’s new rulers.