By Sarah Eltantawi
One hour after midnight on December 24, 2013, a car bomb was detonated in front of the police headquarters in Mansoura, north of Cairo, killing 13 and injuring up to 130. The government has blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the attacks, and the Muslim Brotherhood has denied the claims in a press conference they called in which they spoke only English, and no Arabic. When a BBC reporter asked why this was the case, the reply came in English.
I have up to one hundred family members who live in and around the Mansoura governate. They are book publishers, business men, and several of the women are doctors, including a veterinarian. In fact, it was there that I had my first and only lesson in cow anatomy. They live their lives in a city that has become noticeably more crowded and polluted throughout my years of visiting, but delight in raising and educating their children, in their extremely close family ties, and in their especially good cuisine. Recently I heard from my father that they got together to distribute blankets to those in need after the recent, crazy snow storm. They mostly support the military regime’s transition from Muslim Brotherhood rule, though there are some who support the Muslim Brotherhood. No one supports the wanton bombing of their city’s institutions.
Let us review what has happened in Egypt since June of 2012. In that month of that year, the Egyptian people elected Muhammad Morsi to the presidency by 1.5% of the vote. The context was revolutionary, which means the first elected executive government in Egypt was tasked with one thing, and one thing only: honoring the revolution. Morsi’s opponent was Ahmed Shafiq, a former minister in Mubarak’s regime. The non-Islamist vote, the vast majority in Egypt, was split in the primary elections, yielding an outcome where voters could only vote for the Brotherhood or vote for the old regime. The latter vote spelled the end of the revolution. Many people, therefore, including many revolutionaries, voted for Morsi, which, according to the logic of the moment, was a vote for the revolution.
What is the revolution? The revolution is a movement started by Egypt’s youth who want a more just and open society, and economic growth and prosperity. The Muslim Brotherhood, the most organized political body in Egypt, came to Tahrir square late, having sat it out in the beginning to put their finger to the political wind to best assess how they could come out on top of these new developments in Egypt. At the time, I thought this was dishonorable though understandable from a real politik perspective, and indeed there were plenty of others who were acting dishonorably, including Shaikh Ali Guma’a, who issued a fatwa saying revolutionaries should stay home for Friday prayers, after which the mounting protests against Mubarak tended to build. After all, I reasoned, what really matters is what the Brotherhood would do if they came to power and were entrusted with the revolution.
I supported Morsi’s regime through the constitutional referendum in which he placed himself above judicial review to ram through a constitution. Again, it was all very distasteful, but they were democratically elected, after all, and they had to contend with the deep state. Then, the events at Itahadiyya. Then, the clear sense that the Muslim Brotherhood were stacking Egypt’s institutions with their unqualified members, thumbing their nose at all other political interests in the country, making common cause with neighboring Islamist groups, looking the other way or tacitly supporting violence and terrorism in Sinai, fomenting sectarianism against Christians and Shi’i, erasing the legacy of women’s empowerment from Egypt’s textbooks, refusing to protect female protesters, looking the other way or tacitly supporting lowering the marriage age of girls to nine years old in the temporary shura council (parliament), using sectarian rhetoric in the rapprochement with Iran which never got anywhere, refusing to reform the security state, refusing to reform the police, capitulating to military demands in the constitution, and pursuing the same ethos of vulture capitalism (with new protagonists and beneficiaries) supplemented with begging and borrowing as an economic policy. There were no innovative ideas what so ever, and this became impossible to deny I would say by March of 2013. That is at least when I had to admit it.
In June 30 of 2013, millions of Egyptians, by any standard and by every count, came out into the streets to demand early elections and/or an end to Muslim Brotherhood rule. True to form, the Muslim Brotherhood went completely zero sum, refusing all compromise, and declared war. It should be noted that even Ennahda in Tunisia, in spite of all the criticism they too deserve, expressed a willingness to step down in the face of popular demand. Not the Muslim Brotherhood. They do not care what Egyptians think of them, Egyptians are merely fodder for their rule.
General Abdelfattah al-Sisi orchestrated a popularly-backed coup. Top Brotherhood leaders were arrested, and many others along with thousands of Morsi supporters began camping out in Raba’a and at Cairo University. Many people in Egypt, myself included at the time, warned them that they had very little popular support and would be gunned down. We waited with sick feelings in our stomachs for days and then weeks, but they did not move and only escalated the protests and threats of violence, blocking universities, streets, bridges, and thoroughfares, and keeping up the messainic rhetoric to keep up the morale of their base, the overwhelming majority of whom are innocent people. On August 14 they were gunned down by the security services, who are, and have never wavered from being: violent, vile, thuggish, poorly trained, and adept at dehumanization. Egypt had seen its worst civilian onslaught in modern history, and a darkness fell that has not lifted.
Sisi and his appointed civilian transitional regime then began to further miscalculate. First, their invitation by the Egyptian people was only ever for a transition. This is a population that revolted against the military regime in 2011, now almost three years ago. It is not long ago, and enough blood has been spilled that no one is going to forget that they are in the middle of a revolution and that they can not let the lives of its martyrs go to waste.
To entrench themselves, the military regime benefits from two simultaneous phenomena which feed on one another: the Egyptian population becoming weary, tired, and thus desiring of stability, and terrorism.
Making Egyptians weary and tired is an easy one: just continue the military regime’s playbook of cronyism and misrule that began with Nasser, leaving most Egyptians poor and in the main concerned with putting food on the table. But terrorism — this will need a name, an ideology, and a logic: hence, Sisi declared a “war on terror.”
I have always been against this “war on terror.” Criminal acts can be dealt with with through criminal investigations, but to introduce this nasty Bushian paradigm into Egyptian affairs is to do nothing but to introduce the logic of permanent danger and emergency. That is the environment in which the military regime thrives. Sisi and company need terrorism to survive.
But they are not the only ones. The Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamist allies, who not only fail to understand, but after years of inculcation into an enclosed cult, do not care what Egyptians think of them, are only intent on their messianic version of survival.
For this inherently selfish end, they reach into the playbook of their many allies around the region, their offspring, really, which is destabilization and terrorism. Without it, they have to join the ranks of regular Egyptians who do not live their lives governed by a religious fascist ideology but rather traffic in more quotidian every day concerns that make up the multiple experiences and life worlds that make up Egyptian society, a diversity the Brotherhood finds very distasteful.
Today, someone on the Islamist spectrum introduced violent jihadism into the heart of one of Egypt’s metropoles. Anyone who justifies this is not only a traitor, but a fool. The jihadist’s cause is not “democracy,” their cause is their own survival as a messianic group. The military is also complicit — they enacted the logic of a war on terror knowing exactly what would result. They both need each other, and Egyptians pay the price for their endless macabre dance.
We can not buy into either of these logics, and Egypt must be taken over by people who will serve Egypt. We desperately need fresh blood and fresh thinking, and under no circumstances can we give up.
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