by Ayman Ahmed (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 7, Shawwal, 1434)
By massacring unarmed civilians that were merely holding a sit-in, the military has brought Egypt to the brink of civil war. While the military may have the guns and may be able to kill a very large number of people, they have lost all credibility and will ultimately pay a heavy price for such brutality.
The brutality of the Egyptian military against supporters of al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon (Muslim Brotherhood) has astonished even the most seasoned observers. Equally revealing is the unflinching support extended by the US, Saudi Arabia and Zionist Israel to the mass murderers in uniform. The medieval Arabian rulers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait have showered the military brutes with billions of dollars. The Americans refuse to call the military takeover a coup and, therefore, have not cut off the $1.5 billion in annual aid, most of it to the military, while the Israelis are fully collaborating with the Egyptian generals.
Emboldened by these moves, the military has unleashed a reign of terror against supporters of deposed President Mohamed Mursi. On August 14, when they attacked the two pro-Mursi sit-ins at Rabia al-Adawiya in Nasr City and the other in Giza City, they massacred thousands of innocent civilians. The Rabia al-Adawiya Masjid was turned into a morgue as hundreds of bodies were brought in from the square. Thousands of wounded were tended to in the masjid that was later set on fire by the regime’s thugs.
The slaughter at Rabia al-Adawiya was followed two days later by another massacre in which, according to the regime’s own admission, at least 173 people were killed, mostly in Cairo but also in other cities. Also shot and killed were Ammar Badi‘, 38-year-old son of Mohamed Badi‘, murshid (supreme guide) of the Ikhwan. He was shot and killed during a protest at al-Fath Masjid in Cairo. Army snipers had taken up positions atop the masjid’s minaret shooting people on the ground. Police and heavily armed troops as well as regime thugs stormed the masjid dragging out thousands of people seeking shelter there. Nothing remains sacred any more in the land of the pharaohs.
Khalid al-Banna, grandson of the movement’s founder Hasan al-Banna, was also shot and killed. These deaths brought to eight the number of children of Ikhwan leaders killed by the Egyptian military. On August 14, Asma’, the 17-year-old daughter of Mohamed al-Baltagy was shot and killed in Rabia al-Adawiya Square. When the funeral of Ammar Badi‘ was underway, the regime’s thugs attacked that as well. The Muslim Brotherhood could not bury even their dead in peace.
There were other challenges as well. Many family members were unable to bury their relatives because the interior ministry refused to issue death certificates unless they signed a form saying their loved ones had died of “natural causes” or “committed suicide.” While some relatives just took the bodies away for burial, others refused to accept such demands. They asked how could someone commit suicide by shooting himself in the head and chest simultaneously? Some victims even had multiple gunshot wounds. How could people with bullet-riddled bodies be described as having died of “natural causes”? In one scene a young protester with his arms raised stood in front of an armored personnel carrier in a scene reminiscent of the Tianenman Square in Beijing in June 1989. The communist army did not shoot the protester; the Egyptian army did not hesitate: a soldier riddled the unarmed protester with bullets killing him instantly!
The military-appointed “interior minister” General (retired) Mohamed Ibrahim claimed at a Cairo press conference that supporters of the Brotherhood were armed and that the security forces had exercised “great restraint.” If thousands of people were murdered in one day by showing restraint — the death toll on August 14 was at least 2,600 although the regime finally admitted to a total of 638 dead — what would the death toll have been if the army and police had not shown restraint? Both Western and Muslim journalists pointed out that the regime’s figure of deaths was compiled by counting only those bodies that were taken to the hospital. Clearly, thousands of others were not — the ones lying and decomposing in Rabia al-Adawiya Masjid for instance — and were therefore, not included in the total tally. Pleas by relatives to health and interior ministry officials to visit the Rabia al-Adawiya Masjid to see the condition of the bodies were ignored.
The military appointed regime has re-imposed the state of emergency that had been in force since October 1981 and lifted only last year. A dusk-to-dawn curfew with orders to the police to shoot to kill those that violate the orders was also imposed. The police — and behind them the military — needed no prodding on this score as the mass killings have shown. The military claimed a majority of Egyptians were opposed to the Brotherhood. If so, why impose a state of emergency?
While many Ikhwan leaders have been arrested and have simply disappeared, the remaining leadership has said they will continue their peaceful protests. The military regime announced on August 16 that it was considering a ban on the Ikhwan. An illegitimate military regime wants to ban an organization that has existed, even if often proscribed by successive regimes and horribly brutalized, for more than 80 years. This is an attempt to de-legitimize the only legitimate political group with mass support in the country.
There was another twist to the ongoing saga in Egypt. A court announced on August 19 the release of former dictator Hosni Mubarak while the regime said it was charging the deposed President Mohamed Mursi with murder. Mursi was detained on July 3, the day the military coup occurred and has not been seen in public. Mubarak ruled Egypt for 30 years without ever being elected by the people. He sent thousands of people to prison and had many others executed on trumped-up charges. Yet the former dictator and mass murderer who was a US-Zionist agent, has been released while an elected president is being charged with murder.
Egypt, the most populous Arabian country, is deeply divided today. The brutal crackdown has also exposed many internal and external players for their stand. For instance, most political groups in Egypt — whether Islamic or secular — have demonstrated a shocking degree of cowardice and opportunism. They are unable to condemn the military’s murderous campaign with some even blaming the Brotherhood for inviting this upon itself. The Tamarrod (Rebel) group, made up of opportunists who have been and are being used by the military to advance its nefarious agenda, blamed the Ikhwan for what has happened. It has endorsed the call to ban it.
Externally, the Saudis, Emiratis, Kuwaitis, Americans, Europeans and Zionists all stand exposed as supporters of Egypt’s murderous thugs. On August 19, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said if Western countries cut off aid to Egypt — highly unlikely — Saudi Arabia and other Arabian countries would make up for it. The Saudis have seldom helped the Palestinians suffering under decades of Zionist oppression but they are quick to support and finance those that stifle the legitimate aspirations of the people. The Saudis do not want genuine representatives of the people in power in any Muslim country.
Even the UN Security Council took refuge behind a cowardly statement on August 15 that was exposed by the stand taken by the rotating president, Maria Cristina Perceval of Argentina. While she read the Security Council’s meaningless statement to the press, she then issued her own government’s condemnation of what had happened in Egypt. The significance of the contrasting statements was not lost on most observers.
In every struggle, the media war is equally important. Not surprisingly, the military regime has shut down all media outlets affiliated with or sympathetic to the Ikhwan while anti-Ikhwan outlets have been given a free hand to spread disinformation. The following is typical of how the regime operates. The cabinet’s media advisor Sherif Shawki told al-Ahram Arabic news website on August 16 that the crackdown against the sit-ins was launched after an “ultimatum” allegedly given by al-Azhar to protesters, which had proposed a reconciliation initiative last week, ended. Al-Azhar quickly rejected this by issuing a statement following the assault saying that it had not been aware of plans to disperse the sit-ins, adding it “should not be dragged into political conflicts.”
In an audio message aired on state TV, the Shaykh of al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb called for “restraint” and “prioritization of the national interest.” Al-Tayyeb also condemned violence and bloodshed, stressing that al-Azhar believes in finding a “political solution” to the crisis. Unfortunately, the head of al-Azhar did not condemn injustice or stand up for truth and for those that are being deprived of their fundamental rights and being murdered in cold blood. What good is a al-Azhar if it cannot take a clear stand on matters of principle?
The military and its civilian opportunist allies have pushed Egypt into a dark tunnel of uncertainty. It will take the country decades to recover from this crisis, if at all.