by Ayman Ahmed
General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and the Saudi regime sing from the same hymn page. They both oppose the people’s demand for free speech or even reforms.
There is much in common between the House of Saud and the Egyptian military that has put forward General (retired) Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a well-known Zionist, for the presidency. The election, to be held on May 26 and 27 (after CI press time), is merely a formality to provide a veneer of legitimacy to an otherwise rigged and farcical process.
The Saudis are not only financing the military-backed regime in Egypt but also share the same oppressive mentality as el-Sisi and his military cohorts. In recent statements, el-Sisi has made clear he will not tolerate demands for freedom. He told a gathering of newspaper editors on May 11 not to make any such demands or even dare to expose corruption in state institutions. Like his Saudi sponsors, el-Sisi argued that demanding free speech or exposing corruption in state institutions undermines “national security.” “Give officials a chance for, say, four months,” el-Sisi said, adding, “If you have information or a subject you need to whisper in the ear [of officials], it is possible to do that without exposing it.”
Saudi King Abdullah issued a similar decree in March, the only difference being that the Saudi monarch said people should not call for “reforms” or expose state corruption. The Saudis and their court ‘ulama have elevated nasihah (advice) to official dogma. If you see anything wrong, give the ruler/amir advice; do not expose it in public. If the ruler and/or amir do not listen, pray to Allah (swt) to guide them!
El-Sisi has embarked on the same path and believes if it works in Saudi Arabia why not try it in Egypt as well. He warned the editors not to ask for free speech, just “whisper” advice into officials’ ears. In most countries, the officials appear to be tone deaf; they will pay attention to what they want to hear: it is only praise they want to hear regardless of the mess they make.
Both regimes are facing opposition from the people and have imprisoned thousands of them. In Saudi Arabia, there are at least 30,000 political prisoners; in Egypt, according to the Associated Press, there are 16,000 political prisoners, the majority arrested since the July 2013 military coup against the first-ever elected government in Egypt’s history of President Mohamed Mursi.
Why are the two ruling elites — the House of Saud and the military junta in Egypt that el-Sisi heads — so concerned about keeping the lid on news about corruption? The basic reason is that the rulers and supporting institutions in both countries are deeply involved in such scandalous activity. In Saudi Arabia, the ruling family steals whatever it can lay its hands on. It considers state resources as a family fortune. The same holds true in Egypt. The elites in both countries are also thoroughly incompetent. The Egyptian military controls about 40% of the country’s economy that includes owning hotels, vast land estates, holiday resorts and other businesses. With its fingers in every business pie, one wonders when it gets the time to train for the profession it represents: soldiering. It is more like a business enterprise than a fighting force.
This is no exaggeration. The Egyptian military has never won a single battle against the only external enemy it has ever faced: Zionist Israel. One is not likely to hear the truth on Egyptian state television or read about the pathetic performance of the military in state controlled newspapers, which cannot praise the military and its non-existent virtues enough. Imaginary tales of the military’s “heroic deeds” fill the airwaves and newspaper columns about how it has always valiantly defended the motherland against the “enemy.” The generals are in bed with the “enemy” and take orders from them but this is not something that is aired publicly. This was most recently demonstrated by the manner in which the military went about destroying tunnels into the Israeli-besieged Gaza. These had served as a lifeline for the starving Palestinians. Far from serving the motherland, the generals have ruled the country with an iron fist for decades and exploited and impoverished its hapless people. Their other mission has been to serve imperialist/Zionist interests.
The question that many Egyptians and people elsewhere are asking is: on what authority does el-Sisi make such pronouncements that newspapers should not demand freedom of speech or expose corruption in state institutions? He is no longer the defence minister or army chief; he made these demands as a candidate. Even when el-Sisi made the announcement that he was retiring from the military to seek the presidency, he was given ample airtime on television. Why should he be given this privilege when others are denied?
The reality in Egypt, as indeed in many other Muslim countries, is that the military is considered supreme because it has guns, tanks, can crush any challenge to its authority, and most importantly has the backing of the world’s only “superpower.” In most countries, the rank and file suffer while the top echelon lives a luxurious lifestyle making them unfit to carry out the duties of soldiering.
This is even more so in Egypt that has hitherto lived off the $1.3 billion annual largesse given by the US since 1978 to keep it out of the fight against the illegitimate Zionist usurper regime in Occupied Palestine. When the US offer was first made, the Egyptian regime led by Colonel Anwar Sadat and his generals pounced on it; they know they cannot fight the Zionist army. That requires commitment and sacrifice, qualities unknown among the pleasure-loving generals. Besides, fighting entails the risk of getting killed. It is far more tempting to become businessmen while donning uniform. Thus, nobody can question their illegitimate activities. That is why there are hundreds of retired generals in Egypt that are millionaires.
Dubbed the new Pharaoh of Egypt, el-Sisi offered no specific ideas about what he would do for the economy when elected president. His only theme has been “law and order” — more order less law — in other words, continued repression. Dr. Khalil al-Anani, Adjunct Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC, in an opinion piece on the al-Jazeera website (May 12, 2014) ridiculed el-Sisi about his lack of a platform calling his statements “inane.”
El-Sisi attempts to present different faces to different people. When speaking to foreign media outlets, he tries to present a soft image; internally he was and remains all threats and warnings. Typical of this was his May 11 interview with Sky News Arabia (a joint venture of the arch-Zionist Rupert Murdoch and Saudi playboy Prince al-Waleed bin Talal). El-Sisi said he would resign if his presidency triggers protests. He had already assumed that the presidency was his without waiting for the people’s verdict. It also revealed how farcical the elections will be.
“If people go down to protest, I will say I am at your service,” el-Sisi said in the Sky News Arabia interview. “I cannot wait until the army asks me to resign.” This was clearly a lie. What people was el-Sisi referring to? There have been regular protests by thousands of people, especially students against the coup, risking their lives and limbs. Tens of thousands have been imprisoned and are suffering horrible torture for which Egyptian prisons are notorious. El-Sisi ’s statement however revealed a simple reality: it is the military that finally decides who rules. The question is: who has given the military the mandate to do so?
When el-Sisi was defence minister and army chief, one could perhaps understand, even if not accept as legitimate, that he had the power to dictate whatever policy he wanted since he did not speak as an individual but had the backing of a powerful institution. Once he resigned his posts to run for president, how can he continue to behave as if he is still the military chief? Equally revealing was his backing for a new law that severely restricts freedom of assembly.
Last August, el-Sisi unleashed the military against innocent civilians that were doing no more than holding peaceful protests in public squares against the ouster of the first-ever elected president in Egyptian history. Thousands of people, including women and children were murdered in cold blood. The massacres were carried out on two separate occasions — August 14 and 16 — and the regime’s heavy hand has continued to come down hard on protesters. Aware that only al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon (Muslim Brotherhood) are capable of mounting an effective challenge to military rule, they have been specifically targeted.
Thousands of its members and supporters including its leaders have been consigned to the dungeons and corrupt judges trying to curry favor with the men in uniform have handed down outrageously harsh sentences. Consider the two mass sentences handed down by the notorious judge — Saeed Youssef — in Minya. On March 24, he sentenced 529 people to death for the killing of a single policeman in July 2013. A month later (on April 29), he sentenced another batch of 683 people among them the murshid (leader) of the Ikhwan, Mohamed Badie, to death. The hanging judge, as he has become known, did not even bother to listen to defence arguments.
Egypt is essentially ruled by a troika: the military, interior ministry and the judiciary, with the military sitting on top of the triangle. The others simply carry out its orders. There is no room in this for political groups or parties. The police that come under the interior ministry prevent people from holding even peaceful protests on orders from the military. After clubbing and/or shooting people, the police arrest people en masse. They are then brought before the kangaroo courts where handing down death sentences is routine as has been witnessed in Minya and other places.
Since the military controls every facet of life in Egypt including the judiciary, el-Sisi could make the boast, as he did on May 6, that the Brotherhood was finished and that “there will be nothing called the Muslim Brotherhood during my tenure.”
While his crushing of the Ikhwan in Egypt has been applauded and supported by the Saudis, there is a contradiction in the Saudi position. They are supporting various terrorist groups operating under an “Islamic” label to try and overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Asad. The Egyptian regime opposes these terrorists. Eyad Abu Shakra, managing editor of the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat complained in an opinion piece (May 15) about the Egyptian media’s opposition to the mercenary terrorists that have flooded into Syria. Even while supporting the military’s crushing of the Islamic groups in Egypt, Abu Shakra felt Cairo should distinguish between the Ikhwan in Egypt and the terrorists in Syria.
Abu Shakra may have a point: the Ikhwan in Egypt have not and did not indulge in terrorist activities; the mercenaries in Syria have. Are we to assume that the Saudi regime and its henchmen are now openly admitting that they are state sponsors of terrorism?