Friday, July 19, 2013

Refuting The Myths Around June 30

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.

  Posted by BP at 11:03 am Comments (15)
Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What Might Have Happened At The Republic Guards Club

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.

  Posted by BP at 11:50 am Comments (23)
Friday, July 5, 2013

Popularly Legitimate Coup: An Egyptian Invention

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

  Posted by BP at 11:03 am Comments (73)
Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why Are Egyptians Revolting Against an Elected Regime?

Last Sunday, Egyptians in almost every major city in Egypt took to the streets by the millions to demand that President Morsi steps down. The mass demonstrations did not stop since June 30th, the throngs continued to fill streets and squares even if no demonstration was scheduled by Tamarod, the movement that is clearly leading the streets of Egypt today. Yesterday for example, Tamarod asked the people to go to the Itihadiya and Quba palaces to continue adding pressure on Morsi. They did but at the same time Tahrir was also filled to the brim. No demonstration was planned in Tahrir!

June 30 witnessed demonstrations that far exceeded the revolution of 2011 that ousted Hosni Mubarak. In fact, the millions who took to the streets on June 30 exceeded the number who attended the funerals of both President Naser and Egyptian diva Um Kalthoum, making that day the largest gathering of Egyptians in history. So why did Egyptians suddenly turn against a president whom they elected only a year ago?

MB served two masters:

President Morsi was elected because people yearned for change. The margin between him and Shafik was not that big but still the majority chose change over a candidate who represented Mubarak’s era. What we later discovered was that Morsi turned out to be merely the Brotherhood’s representative in the presidency and not the president of all Egyptians.

President Morsi used his office to consolidate power for the Brotherhood which ruled Egypt as if it was just one branch in its regional organization. The instability in the country can be traced back to his dictatorial constitutional decree that granted him sweeping power; something Mubarak would have not even dared to do. Egyptians had big dreams after the January 2011 revolution and they hoped the Brotherhood would deliver a better Egypt. Instead, the MB minimized Egypt, the cradle of civilization, to just a tool for them to meet the petty geopolitical goals of their organization.

MB turned into an occupation force

The Brotherhood did not try to change Mubarak’s regime, they just cloned it and made it work for their interests. The cultic nature of the Brotherhood organization, its ideological ties with foreign entities and regional span made it look as if it was “not very Egyptian”. Some of the protesters who took to the streets since last Sunday refer to the MB as the “the Brotherhood occupation.”

No Sheikh under the Mosque’s Dome

“We thought there was a sheikh under the mosque’s dome.” Egyptians say this when they anticipate something big from someone and then get nothing at the end. Before reaching power, we thought the Brotherhood were these great business people who will improve the living standard of Egyptians. On the contrary, we discovered that the MB know nothing about the economy and their economic policy depended solely on borrowing money from anyone who showed any sign of willingness to lend. We thought they were Warren Buffets, they turned out to be Seven Eleven cashiers.

The Brotherhood’s dreadful mismanagement of the country’s economy and the political situation was one of the major reasons why Egyptians cannot take them anymore.

The failure of Westerners to understand why Egyptians revolted against an elected regime is stemming from the fact that they, the Westerners, are secured in their inclusive constitutions, bills of rights and rule of law. We have nothing of these. We only had one facet of democracy – election – which brought a cultic organization with a fascist twist that decided to cancel the other facets.

Why did Egyptians vote for the MB if they were so dreadful? Well, they didn’t know. They did a mistake. The Germans voted for a mass murderer and the Italians voted for a fascist. We have the right to make mistakes too. We’re not better than the Germans and the Italians.

  Posted by BP at 10:43 am Comments (12)