by Ayesha Alam (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 12, Rabi' al-Thani, 1435)
The thugs in uniform may have got themselves a tailor-made Constitution Egypt continues face violence because people’s rights have been trampled upon.
Egypt has now been transformed into a long, slow war of attrition — a judgment of the Ikhwan’s political miscalculations and mistakes. On the eve of the third anniversary (January 24) of the outbreak of massive revolts against the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian revolution has devolved into trench warfare between Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime and al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon (Muslim Brotherhood). Or as Chandra Muzaffar of the JUST World, Malaysia queried in his op-ed, “Why is Egypt bleeding? Because its security forces are re-asserting their power and authority and Ikhwan al-Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood) is resisting.”
On January 24, an explosion erupted in Cairo, killing 15 people and wounding several more. The Egyptian security forces used this as further ammunition against the Muslim Brotherhood, claiming that the attack was deliberately committed in the morning at a time when traffic is at its peak, in order to terrorize the Egyptian population. This, of course, neatly fits in with el-Sisi and Co.’s designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist organization” in December 2013. The Brotherhood refused this attempt to pin blame, declaring in a statement that it “strongly condemns the cowardly bombings.” There were explosions in different parts of Cairo that day and the following day more police and army-perpetrated violence followed.
The Egyptian military has been playing fast and loose with the “terrorism” discourse, with US blessing. This became clear in the announcement that labeled the Brotherhood a “terrorist” organization. “The government reiterates that there will be no return to the past under any circumstances and Egypt, the state and the people, will never succumb to the terrorism of the Muslim Brotherhood whose crimes have gone far beyond all moral, religious and human limits,” Egyptian official Hossam Issa announced on state-run al-Masriya channel back in December.
Even Reuters pointed out the discrepancies in this portrayal. In an article on January 24 morning’s bombing, it pointed out that the said blast was the work of a suicide bomber. But footage broadcast on Egyptian television channel showed a man getting out of a van and moving into another vehicle. Minutes later the van exploded. In other words, whether or not they were behind the bombing, the army is hell-bent on following the “terrorism” script as a means of criminalizing the Brotherhood as a political opposition.
Clashes proceeded to erupt between security forces and Brotherhood supporters on January 25 coinciding with the date of uprising against the Mubarak dictatorship three years earlier, leading to the death of 51 Egyptians. According to reports, several neighborhoods of Cairo resembled a warzone — including the district of Dokki, where a reporter saw nine bodies on the floor of a clinic. Brotherhood supporters lobbed firebombs at the police and army — who responded with brutal gunfire with the intent to kill. According to most journalists, the bodies in the streets and hospitals had gunshot wounds to the face or chest. The overwhelming majority of dead were Brotherhood supporters.
Meanwhile, el-Sisi has been winning the PR battle, helped by the global media that has been profiling the “pro-Sisi” demonstrations and blocking out coverage of both pro-Brotherhood and fierce anti-military protestations. In particular, the media has purged the violence with which el-Sisi’s forces have been responding to these protests, the criminal way they have been indiscriminately firing upon and killing demonstrators, leaving a trail of carnage intended to break the will of their countrymen. While the US, UN and EU have been wagging their collective finger at Sisi’s use of “excessive” force, the leftist news organizations have been far more blunt — “slaughter” has become a euphemism under el-Sisi’s tenure.
Several thousand protesters from the Brotherhood's alliance have been killed since last August. During Egypt’s celebration honoring its military, 51 people were killed and 200 were injured. To add to the volatile mixture is the takfiri Molotov cocktail that the CIA, Mossad, and Saudi intelligence organizations are lobbing into fragile Muslim societies in order to implode them: recently, a group called Bayt al-Maqdis openly claimed responsibility for a car bombing in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia in which a number of Egyptian soldiers died.
Meanwhile, the United States, which had begun ramping up its military aid to Egypt as the revolution hit stride, is now self-righteously wagging its finger at the Egyptian military (even as US lawmakers contemplate giving the military even more money). “We strongly condemn the terrorist attacks that took place in Egypt today,” the US State Department declared, urging that the bombings “be investigated fully and the perpetrators… be brought to justice.” To stick the penknife even deeper in the wound, the statement went on to wag its finger at the “violence-prone” tendencies of Egyptians, “We urge all Egyptians to exercise calm and restraint ahead of the third anniversary of Egypt’s revolution,” it added.
Meanwhile, the US Congress is contemplating a vote to deliver even more lucre to the coffers of el-Sisi and his henchmen, as security forces that are actively working (both overtly and covertly) to cripple the will of the people in a ghastly wave of violence. Al-Sisi, who is widely speculated to be Jewish, was even dubbed “Person of the Year in regional affairs” by the rightwing Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post. The newspaper article praised him for “[standing] up to domestic and international opposition in order to take absolute power of the country from the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Even with the most watered-down standard of political liberalism, el-Sisi’s tenure is spelling disaster for the Egyptian public. While the Egyptian media is skewing portrayals of el-Sisi as a figure of stability, the truth is that he is instilling a regime of fear that is destroying the economy and public sphere itself. Egyptians are fleeing the country, as he makes it clear that no opposition will be tolerated toward his rule, even the opposition of pro-Western figures such as former presidential candidate Mohamed al-Baradei (who has retreated to his Vienna offices). The vigorous Egyptian press has been aggressively targeted by el-Sisi, who has closed offices of any paper that criticizes him (including al-Jazeera) and has arrested numerous journalists.
In this grim picture, the Brotherhood seems to be running out of options, clinging to a romanticized picture of Martin Luther King-esque marches as the solution to state violence. What Tariq Ramadan termed as a series of “errors of judgment” and simpleminded “mistakes” on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood comes into greater focus. These include not doing their homework and correctly identifying el-Sisi as a sleeper agent from within the ranks of the Egyptian military, back when Mursi decided to appoint him Minister of Defense in August 2012. These deadly errors have cost them Egypt itself, and thrown their bodily survival into peril.
For instance, when el-Sisi was studying at the US Army War College in 2006, he penned an 11-page paper called “Democracy in the Middle East” where he took the classic perspective of any aspiring tin pot dictator. Al-Sisi questioned the ballot box, arguing that publics in the Middle East were simply not ready for democracy. Also, ominously, he wrote, “If a democracy evolves with different constituencies, there is no guarantee that the police and military forces will align with the emerging ruling parties.” The paper also gives impressive testimony to how el-Sisi maintained deep cover in a “pious” persona, as he reflects on the Islamic caliphate and suggests (fallaciously) that people’s religious beliefs trump the right to elections and representation. In other words, the only form of rule over Muslim publics is necessarily iron-fisted dictatorship.
However, not all members of the US establishment have shed their conscience in this apocalyptic rush to guarantee Israel’s security at the cost of the largest, and most populous Arab nation. Recently, Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, penned a stinging op-ed in the Huffington Post where she took the US government to task for supporting Egypt’s military-led government. The op-ed is titled, “US Must Suspend Funding to Egypt’s Military Regime.”
“The Egyptian government continues to demonstrate disregard for basic principles of democracy and a lack of respect for internationally recognized human rights,” Kennedy wrote. “Its leaders have acted with impunity and have been emboldened because there have been no consequences for their actions. For policy towards Egypt remains unchanged, we will be complicit in continued human rights violations, a totally unacceptable and untenable situation.”
Meanwhile, the fate of Egypt hangs in the balance, swamped in a miasma of blood and violence that is cloaking the real perpetrators, who are working to “rebrand” Islam as a violent ideology that must be stamped out of existence. The Egyptian Army with its blood-soaked weapons is presiding over the unquiet desperation of millions, who are once more confronting the cage of oppression, poverty, and state violence from which they had so gloriously sprung.