Day six in Cairo: Polarization and Revisionist History

By Sarah Eltantawi

Today interim President Mansour authorized Prime Minister El-Beblawi to grant the military the right to arrest civilians.  This signals an intention to go after jihaadis in Sinai and pro-Morsi protesters — perhaps through a large scale operation.

In addition to the clear dangers this presents for innocent Islamists and everyone else in Egypt once a new group is declared “the enemy,” its profound tactical stupidity is difficult to overstate.

Any fair observer can see that the Morsi camp has a genuine, logical, and morally sound case — their elected president has been deposed and a military-appointed civilian government has been appointed (with the support of a massive popular revolt.)  This is a strange and unprecedented turn of events in political history, and where you fall on its outcome depends on the relative weight one places on individual factors.   In a revolutionary context, I would assign popular sentiment the lion’s share of the determinative weight, but I can understand Morsi supporters feeling quite differently.

On the diplomatic side, the state of negotiations between the new government and the Morsi camp is unclear, but one suspects the army is not bending over backwards to enfranchise Islamists, as they must, and that the Morsi camp is asking for “too much” (they could have gotten much more had they held early elections when they had the chance.)

The government’s military strategy, as we have seen, has been, so far, criminal.  What astounds me even so, however, is that the current regime does not seem to have learned a very basic historical lesson:  the Muslim Brotherhood thrives when oppressed.

In addition to the humanitarian atrocities that have and will result from dispersing pro-Morsi supporters violently, how can the current government fail to understand that creating “martyrs” will only prolong this stalemate and thrust Egypt into chaos?  It is a profound level of hubris that assumes Islamists will be silenced through killing and oppression.

In this sorry context it is easy to argue that Egypt has been thrust into a counterrevolution and reverted to its “old ways,” and many pro-Morsi supporters have been loudly making this claim.  But it is disingenuous.  The truth is, since the January 25 revolution, nothing in the security services’ behavior has changed.

The activist group “No to Military Trials” reported just over a month ago here that Morsi’s claim that no civilians were tried by military courts was incorrect.

Campaign member and human rights lawyer Ragia Omran stated, “I reject Morsi’s statement that no civilians have received military trials during his first year in office. We are in contact with detainees’ relatives and there are civilian detainees who are still awaiting military trials.”

The group also denounced Morsi’s threat to use his position as army commander-in-chief to utilize military law to sue opposition media.  As Wael Ghonim said on Twitter, “Mubarak tried Muslim Brothers in military courts because civilian courts acquitted them. Today Morsi is threatening to use the same military courts against his opponents.”

It as as if some pro-Morsi supporters want to suggest that Egypt has been enjoying a magical year of democratic freedom that has been disrupted by a simple military coup.  The facts belie that version of reality, and the Egyptian people who took to the streets on June 30 certianly do not feel this way either.

Subjecting civilians to military trials does not portend a counter-revolution, it is rather a continuation of authoritarian practices that have been left untouched over the past two and a half years.

At the same time, present historical moments do not simply revert to older historical moments.  Things are not good in Egypt today, but they are not the same as the Mubarak era.  Egypt’s best chance now is to capitalize on the fact that, at the very least, consciousness has been raised to the point that regular citizens are empowered to demand better.  Over these past years of turmoil, they   have been given the opportunity to name and critique various manifestations of the authoritarian enemy.

In this sense, the revolution continues.  It must.


Dr. Ahmed Hamad

This is Dr. Ahmed Hamad, killed by the security services at one of the pro-Morsi sit-in’s two days ago.  Ali Tobah makes the following comment about him on Facebook:

“For the past couple of days I’ve seen posts about this man. He is apparently loved very much by quite a few people, and seems to have been a pivotal figure in relief work in several countries. This is the type of terrorist that El-Sisi has been authorized to kill. Not only sickening, but also a crime that we lose such a person who could have done so much good. Positively sickening.”

He is just one of many victims, but one of the few to be humanized.  May he rest in peace.  Allah yarhamu.

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