Egypt’s Dictatorship Is Real – OpEd


Unless it is averted by transcendental intervention or by the collective efforts of those who possess the political or economic capacity to influence the Egyptian Army, the stage in Egypt is set for bloody massacres, or worse, a civil war. The excerpts below — without prejudice to my personal politcal views in offering a narrative that needs to be understood — underline a thinly-veiled pretext.

On July 24, 2013, General Abdel-Fattah El Sissi delivered his second most important speech since the one he delivered hours after he overthrew Egypt’s first civilian, and only elected president, Mohammad Morsi. The content of this speech has the potential to implicate him as a perpetrator of crimes against humanity.

Speaking at a military academy, before a graduating class, their families and guests, General El Sissi spoke like a man who possesses absolute power. And while wearing the Persol shades often used by stereotypical dictators of ‘Banana Republics’ and communist tyrants to project fear, mystique, and hide any eye contact and facial language that may undermine the message, El Generalissimo certainly looked the part.

This is what he said:

“We are faced with threats of violence and terrorism,” said the General. “Some say the Egyptian army is divided, and that it might turn against itself….In the name of God (3 times) our army is as unified as a single heart in a single man;” he added.

He said, he had told the Muslim Brotherhood (after the ousting of Mubarak) to not nominate a candidate in the elections. “I told them they need more knowledge, more efforts and the upcoming phase is very critical; so I advised them not to nominate anyone and they thanked me and left but they didn’t listen.” Therefore what, one may wonder?

Concerning the overthrown President, Mohammad Morsi, he had this to say: “I sat with the former President for two hours from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. I told him about the condition on the ground and told him he was to address the public and handed him talking points. The next thing I knew was the speech that he delivered. I was shocked. “Is this the speech that we agreed on?” said the General.

While this may resonate with the portion of Egyptians that supported the coup, to the great majority of supporters of democracy in Egypt and around the world, this very assertion of power by a Minister of Defense toward his President confirms — beyond any shadow of a doubt — that what happened on July 3rd was nothing other than a military coup.

The climax of the speech was reached when — after a few cloying praises for the army and the (June 30) revolutionary Egyptians — the General made this direct appeal:

“On this coming Friday I need you to give me a mandate and indeed an order to counter the violence and the imminent terrorism facing us. I never requested anything from you before. I want you to come out in masses. I want you to show the world that you have a will and a say, and that you want us to act on your behalf to end terrorism.

“Please, my fellow Egyptians carry this responsibility with me. I don’t want you to think I want violence. Military and police will provide your security and ensure your safety…”. He thus reassured his audience and other supporters watching his speech via State Television.

Never mind that neither the military nor the police have been securing the safety of the AntiCoup masses who have been protesting literally day and night for four straight weeks.

In his capacity as Defense Minister and the Commander of the armed forced, General El Sissi does not legally need a public mandate to employ military force in the protection of his country on the Sinai boarder. He does, however, need a PR buffer to protect his military’s image; especially, when he is bent on bypassing the Interior Ministry and its security apparatus which is in charge of dealing with terrorism.

As if General El Sissi’s message wasn’t clear enough, here is what the youth-led Tamarud Movement posted on its facebook to a half a million friends:

“We call on all the great people of Egypt to come out in masses this Friday to demand the prosecution of Muhammad Morsi and lend support to the armed forces in its upcoming fight against terrorism and cleansing traitors out of Egypt. We will fight against terrorism publically and militarily.”

This, needless to say, is a dangerous language. This type of demonization and clear mission to ‘cleanse’ has historically led to massacres and genocides around the world.

According to Aljazeera, immediately after General El Sissi’s speech, the Egyptian military was placed on a state of high alert “to protect people from violence and terrorism.”

The Muslim Brotherhood and its (possibly confused) rapidly growing pro-democracy allies have been rejecting the systematic demonization process aimed to isolate them as violent and as terrorists. They have been arguing that violent extremists and terrorists don’t bring their wives, children, and parents to the public squares to join them in demonstrations under the baking sun, or to fields to protest with them and camp for weeks.

Despite all of that, they have been on the defensive though they are the ones who were being dealt with, with an iron fist.

Whatever one’s view of Islamism, both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented human rights violations against the Islamist masses and their supporters. They have been the victims of random killings — including the shooting in the back of unarmed civilians — arbitrary mass arrests, and overt political muzzling as all of their media outlets, as well as those accused of being sympathizers, have been shut down. To the perpetrators, repression is necessary to establish convenient facts on the ground.

Against that backdrop, the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies have rejected a call for national dialogue for two main reasons: First, the call is coming from the very group which masterminded the coup. Second, the restoration of the illegally suspended constitution, the arrested President and the dissolved Shura Council is the litmus test to indicate a genuine desire for a negotiated political solution.

Vice Chairman of the Freedom and Justice party, Essam Elerian, was quick to respond with a facebook statement and a tweet:

“Your threat will not prevent millions to rally against the coup. You are a coup leader and people have rejected the coup…” @Essam_Elerian. “The local, regional, and international alliance that supported the military coup would be responsible for the (immanent) oppression against the Egyptian people and the spilling of their blood.”

Staying with the narative, all kinds of labelling has been targeted against the Muslim Brotherhood despite the fact that as early as July 8, as dozens of their members were massacred while they were praying, Mohammed Badie, the leader of the Brotherhood, has publicly been saying: “Our revolution is a peaceful one and it would remain as such. Our peaceful approach is mightier than their bullets.”

To publicly affirm their determination and commitment (as they would put it) to continue their supposedly marathon peaceful demonstration, they declared this Qur’anic verse—what Abel told his brother Cain when he came to kill him—as their motto: “If you should raise your hand against me to kill me – I shall not raise my hand against you to kill you. Indeed, I fear God, Lord of the worlds.”

Regardless of where you stand politically, such is the situation in Egypt.

Abukar Arman

Abukar Arman is the author of "Broken Camel Bells: Somalia Age of Terrorism," and is a foreign policy analyst and a former diplomat. On Twitter: @4DialogSK

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