Egypt: The officers’ war of terror; latest statements from the Egyptian left

27 July, 2013 — Jadaliyya

Since the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt has become a battlefield of narratives. Each narrative has sought to appropriate and define the January 25 Revolution. The wielders of power, most notably the army, along with its allies, advanced a narrative claiming that the revolution succeeded—thanks to the intervention of the officers. The time had come, this narrative went, for protesters to vacate the streets and the squares, and for workers to end their strikes and return to the factories. The revolution could only continue through the military-engineered transition, through people “going home”, through deferring to elections, constitution writers, and the officers and elites bargaining over Egypt’s future.

But for many, the January 25 Revolution was not simply a quest for an elected government. It encompassed a host of demands for far-reaching institutional reforms and social and economic rights. These revolutionaries did not leave that narrative unchallenged. They pushed back against the military and its civilian partners, who sought to negotiate and construct a political system that could contain rather than amplify revolutionary demands for transformative change.

But the partisans of “bread, freedom, and social justice” remained on the margins long after Mubarak’s ouster. They struggled to resist the narratives of power. In doing so they faced one of the major paradoxes of revolutionary popular mobilization in Egypt that 25 January revealed. Those who took to the streets could build enough pressure to “veto” particular political realities. However, they had little to no sway to replace the realities they overturned. The people, in other words, possess the power to subvert, but without necessarily challenging the ability of the wielders of power to dictate what comes next.

The relevance of this paradox to the events and aftermath of 30 June 2013 cannot be more apparent. In the prelude to the 30 June protests, millions of disgruntled Egyptians signed the Tamarod Campaign petition, declaring:

As a member of the Egyptian people, I hereby declare that I withdraw my confidence from the President of the Republic Dr. Mohammed Morsi and call for early presidential elections. I vow to stay true to the goals of the revolution and work towards achieving them, as well as publicizing the Tamarod campaign amongst the ranks of the masses until together we can achieve a society of dignity, justice, and freedom.

This initiative began as an attempt to gather popular support for early presidential elections after Morsi’s failure to deliver on the demands of the January 25 Revolution. That effort is now ceding ground to actors that are even more hostile to the aspirations that the Tamarod petition articulated. It is true that those who took to the streets may have succeeded in overturning one the largest hurdles to revolutionary change in Egypt, namely the uneasy alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood and the entrenched centers of powers known as the “deep state.” The popular mobilization that culminated on 30 June made it impossible for the officers and the security establishment to hide their anti-democratic privileges behind the façade of democratic institutions and civilian punching bags. Yet the fact remains: the murderers of Khaled SaidSayed BilalMina Danial and Gaber Salah “Jika” are emerging triumphant in the aftermath of Morsi’s ouster. They are actively exploiting popular disdain for Muslim Brotherhood rule to carve out an equally, if not more, regressive political order than the one that preceded it.

Similar to what they have done after 11 February 2011, the officers today are promoting a narrative in which they have (once again) intervened heroically to save the day and “protect the revolution.” Accordingly, after they helped oust Morsi out of power, the officers are now asking Egyptians for pay back. The people are now to offer a blind, if not supportive, eye to the military practices as it employsdeadly forcerepression and xenophobia to force its challengers into submission. The fear mongering discourse that the military has used as part of its “war on terror” initiative has clearly turned into more than just “words,” after security forces killed dozens of Muslim Brotherhood protesters Friday night, and dozens others in previous attacks. Yesterday’s brutal attacks came right after millions of Egyptians rallied in nationwide public gatherings in support of Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s request for a popular mandate to deal with imminent “terrorist” threats. Many media outlets and opinion shapers in Egypt have uncritically expressed support for this alarming development. This pattern only highlights the extent to which advocates of dignity and justice in the country face an uphill battle in countering the attempts of the military and their allies to liquidate political dissent and dictate the terms of the new political order.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s record in power may have been so horrendous as to justify Morsi’s impeachment. But even so, what is undeniable is that the military’s violent campaign against Brotherhood supporters and the propagation of xenophobic discourse against its activists, as well as any explicit or implicit endorsement of such efforts stand in complete contradiction with the professed principles of the January 25 Revolution. They also defy the vision of a humane, just social order that many individuals have sacrificed their lives or body parts for the past two and a half years. There can be no freedom in a country where media outlets are shut down because they fail to toe the official line and where individuals face the threat of arrest, slander, and violent retribution for their political views. There can be no justice in a country where a former president and his associates are being held accountable for suspected wrong-doings through a process dominated by the very system that has killed unarmed protesters, conducted virginity tests, and have long subjected Egyptians to torture, humiliation, and abuse. There can be no dignity in a country where the coercive apparatus of the old Mubarak regime isreconstituting itself under the guise of a counter-terrorism initiative. The Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders are guilty for failing to build an Egypt that lives up to the demands of the January 25 Revolution. But their former allies among the officers who are ruling today are just as guilty.

What is next for Egypt? There is little doubt that the military-sponsored transitional framework—like its predecessor—is structurally unfit to deal with the rampant social inequalities that have long animated the conflict between large social segments and the Egyptian state. The current transition is primarily aimed at shielding state institutions from popular demands for revolutionary change. Simply replacing the Muslim Brotherhood with a new cadre of military-allied civilians, even under the framework of democratic institutions, will not quell the struggle for bread, freedom, and social justice. Thus, some might argue that it is only a matter of time before an open clash ensues between advocates of transformative change and the military-led political order. But even if such a clash is probable, the minority who opposes both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood face significant challenges. The events of this last week are painful evidence of the tough road ahead. The January 25 Revolution now faces a fight for its existence in an environment in which power and resistance are more convoluted than ever.

Egypt: ‘Do not let the army fool you’

Statement from Fatma Ramadan, member of the executive committee of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (original Arabic here), translated by Sara Ajlyakinedited by Anne Alexander.

Al-Sisi’s “permission” is a deadly poison

July 26, 2013 — MENA Solidarity Network — My comrades, the workers of Egypt are struggling for their rights and for a better Egypt. Egypt’s workers dream of freedom and social justice, they dream of work at a time when thieves who are called businessmen close down factories to pocket billions. Egypt’s workers dream of fair wages under the rule of a governments that are only interested in promoting investment at the expense of workers and their rights, and even their lives. Egypt’s workers dream of a better life for their children. They dream of medicine when they are sick, but they do not find it. They dream of four walls in which they can take shelter.

Since before the 25th of January and you have been demanding your rights, and your strikes and demonstrations for the same unanswered demands continued after Mubarak’s overthrow. Both the Muslim Brotherhood and the military have negotiated left, right and centre, not once having in mind your demands and rights. All they have in mind is how to put out the sparks you have lit with your struggle in times of darkness, even these sparks all burned in isolation from each other.

Did not the military forcibly end your strikes in Suez, Cairo, Fayyoum, and all over Egypt ? Did not the military arrest many of you and subject you to military trials just for practising your right to organize, strike, and protest peacefully? Have they not adamantly worked to criminalize this right through legislation banning all Egyptians from organizing peaceful protests, strikes, and sit-ins?

Then came Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood, who followed in Mubarak’s footsteps with dismissals, arrests, and smashing strikes by force. It was Mursi who sent police dogs against workers at Titan Cement in Alexandria, acting through the Minister of the Interior and his men. The same police and army officers who are right now being carried shoulder-high are killers, the killers of honest, young Egyptians. They are the authorities’ weapon against us all – and always will remain so unless these institutions are cleansed.

The leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are planning crimes against Egyptian people on a daily basis, which have caused the killing of innocent people, while the army and the police are facing these with brutal violence and murder. But let each of us remember, when do the army and police intervene? They intervene long after clashes have begun and are almost coming to an end, after blood has been spilled. Ask yourselves, why don’t they prevent these crimes committed by the Muslim Brotherhood against the Egyptian people before they start? Ask yourselves, in whose interest is this continuation of fighting and blood-letting? It is in the interest of both the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood and the military together. Just as the poor are cannon-fodder for wars between states, Egypt’s poor, workers and peasants, are fuel for internal war and conflict. Has not the doorman’s innocent son been killed in Mokattam, and in Giza as well?

Today, we have been asked to go out and authorize Al-Sisi’s killing spree, and we find all three trade union federations in agreement: the government’ Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), the Egyptian Democratic Labour Congress (EDLC), and the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) (of which I am a member of the Executive Committee). I debated with members of the EFITU executive committee in order to convince them not to issue a statement calling on its members and the Egyptian people to go down on Friday, confirming that the army, the police, and the people are one hand as stated in the statement. I was in the minority, winning four other votes versus nine votes, and thus all three trade union federations called for workers to join the protests on the pretext of fighting terrorism.

We are thus faced with jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. The Muslim Brotherhood committed crimes and it must be held accountable and prosecuted for them, just like police and army officers and men of the Mubarak regime must be held accountable and prosecuted for their crimes. Do not be fooled into replacing a religious dictatorship with a military dictatorship.

Workers of Egypt, be aware, for your demands are crystal clear. You want work for you and your children, you want fair pay, laws that protect your rights against the laws that the businessmen of Mubarak have designed to protect their interests against your rights. You want a state which has a real plan for development, opening new factories in order to absorb a growing labour force. You want freedom, freedom of all kinds, freedom to organize, freedom to strike. You want a country where you can live as free citizens without torture or murder. You have to specify what stands between you and these demands. Do not be fooled and let them take you to battles not your own. Do not listen to those who ask of you today and tomorrow to stop pressing for these demands and rights on the pretext of fighting terrorism

Revolutionary Socialists: The military’s new massacres

July 29, 2013 — Socialist Worker (USA) — Soldiers opened fire on a sit-in protest by Muslim Brotherhood members outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo, killing at least 72 people and injuring scores more. It was the deadliest of clashes across Egypt last weekend between security forces and supporters of the Brotherhood and ousted President Mohamed Morsi, who was forced from office at the beginning of July. By early Sunday, the death toll across the country was 80.

Both military officials and leaders of the Egyptian government appointed after Morsi’s downfall–including interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, a leader of the National Salvation Front formed in opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood government last year–blamed the Brotherhood for “causing a crisis” and even starting the violence. But eyewitnesses to the carnage that began in the early morning hours Saturday said the soldiers opened fire on demonstrators. Ahram Online reported that doctors in field hospitals where casualties were brought said the victims were “shot with live ammunition that targeted the head or chest. ‘These are shots aimed to kill, not to disperse,’ [one doctor] said.”

Morsi was elected president only one year ago, but he and the Brotherhood lost popular support, especially after they tried to ram through a constitutional declaration that enshrined the political power of Islamist forces. A petition campaign, known as “Tamarod” (Rebellion), calling on Morsi to resign spread across the country, culminating in one of the biggest days of mass demonstrations in world history on June 30. Several days later, the military stepped in to officially remove Morsi from power, appoint an interim president and promise new elections.

The Brotherhood refused to accept Morsi’s ouster and organized its members for demonstrations, including the ongoing sit-in near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo. Revolutionaries say the Brotherhood has continued the violent attacks–a regular feature under Morsi–against left-wing opponents and members of the Coptic minority.

Over the course of July, the military and security forces have become increasingly bold in their repression against the Brotherhood. These forces were once associated in many Egyptians’ minds with the three-decade dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak that was overthrown in the February 2011 revolution, and then with the repressive rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that followed–sometimes in alliance with the Brotherhood and sometimes in opposition to it. Since Morsi’s ouster, however, the security apparatus and remnants of the old Mubarak regime, known as the feloul, have regained some of their former support.

Thus, when Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the head of the armed forces, called for demonstrations last Friday to show a popular “mandate” for the military’s moves against the Brotherhood, large numbers answered the call. In the aftermath of the weekend’s violence, many of the organizations and leading figures from the Tamarod movement–including three presidential candidates from last year’s election, ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabahi and Amr Moussa–called for an investigation of the shootings, but generally blamed the Brotherhood for the deaths and refused to oppose the escalating repression.

Below, we are publishing three statements by the Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt. The first was issued before last Friday’s demonstration and opposed the pro-military mobilization, while defending the mass rebellion that led to Morsi’s downfall. The two others were issued on Sunday as the death toll from the weekend mounted.

* * *

Not in our name!

WHATEVER CRIMES the Brotherhood has committed against the people and against the Copts in defense of its power in the name of religion, we do not give army chief Al-Sisi our authority. We will not go into the streets on Friday offering a blank check to commit massacres.

If Al-Sisi has the legal means to do what he wants, why is he calling people into the streets? What he wants is a popular referendum on assuming the role of Caesar, and the law will not deter him.

Yes, the Brotherhood caused the masses to suffer during the period of their rule, and today, we see the return of terrorist acts in Sinai, Al-Arish, and attacks against the people living in Maniyal and al-Nahda.

Yet the army does not need “permission” to deal with terrorist acts. It has the legal means to do that and more. But it does want more–it wants a popular mobilization behind it in order to increase the cohesion of the state and the ruling class behind its leadership.

It wants to wipe out one of the most important features of the revolution so far, which is the masses’ consciousness of the repressive role of the state apparatus and its intense hostility toward them. It wants to make true the lie that “the army, the police and the people are one hand.” The army wants the people to follow it into the streets, just a year after the masses were screaming, “Down, down with military rule.”

They want finally to restore “stability”–that is to say, the return of order and the return of the regime. They want to finish off the revolution, and they will use the Brotherhood to do it. The Brotherhood in only one year of office alienated everyone: the old state, its army and police; the ruling class; the working class and the poor; the Copts; the revolutionary organizations and political parties. The fall of the Brotherhood was inevitable, and people were celebrating the downfall of Morsi even before they went into the streets on June 30.

The military establishment, which had allied itself with the Islamists over the previous two years, decided to break this alliance after the Islamists failed to contain the social mobilization and rising anger in the streets. So it seized the opportunity to get rid of Morsi and cut off the development of a revolutionary movement and prevent it deepening.

They want to lead this movement in a “safer” direction by getting rid of the Brotherhood to restore the old order. This strategy has seen the old regime’s cronies, police and army being cleared in the courts, while their crimes are added to the charge sheet against the Brotherhood.

On top of this, they claim that they were responsible for the January 25 revolution as well. We do not want to find Morsi on trial for the murder of the martyrs of Port Said and others. It was Mubarak/Morsi’s police who was responsible. The most important thing is to open the door that was closed with Morsi’s agreement: Justice for the martyrs.

The crimes that Morsi committed were committed with the military, the police and Mubarak’s state. They should all be tried together. Giving the old state a mandate for its repressive institutions to do what they want to their partners-in-crime of yesterday will only give them a free hand to repress all opposition thereafter.

They will repress all protest movements, workers’ strikes, sit-ins and demonstrations. We cannot forget that the crimes which the Brotherhood committed around the country took place under the noses of the police and army without them intervening at all to protect protesters or the people.

The masses going into the street on Friday is damaging to the revolution, whatever the participants in the protests might think. Giving the army a popular mandate to finish off the Muslim Brotherhood will inevitably lead to the consolidation of the regime, which the revolution arose to overthrow. We must use the downfall of the Brotherhood to deepen the revolution, not to support the regime.

We have to deal with the Brotherhood at a popular and political level, responding to their acts of violence with the utmost firmness. We must build popular committees to defend ourselves against attacks by the Brotherhood and to protect our revolution, which will not subside before it overthrows the regime, and before it wins bread, freedom and social justice and retribution for all the killers of the martyrs.

Revolutionary Socialists
July 25, 2013 (This translation first appeared in Socialist Worker, Britain.)

Against the massacres and the military’s ‘mandate’

A NEW massacre shocked Egyptians when they learned about it at dawn on Saturday, adding to the bloody record of the Interior Ministry and the military, just hours after the millions-strong demonstrations for the “mandate” from the people demanded by the Ministry of Defense. This is the first tidings of the mandate are to whitewash evidence of the state in confronting protests by force of arms.

We defend the right of the populace–all of the populace–to express their opinion by every means of peaceful expression, from demonstrations and sit-ins to strikes. This right was one that the January revolution won, thanks to the blood of our martyrs. We condemn this massacre, which claimed the lives of dozens of the poor from the provinces and the youth of the Brotherhood.

Nowhere among them were their leaders, who we see only upon the stages or the satellite channels supported by America, calling for violence in the name of religion. We don’t see any of their names or their children among those murdered or injured. Yet they urge the youth to face down the brutality of the police, who have decided that their “mandate” means confronting protests with murder.

The guns aimed at the breasts of the Brotherhood today will quickly be turned around to take aim at the breasts of the revolutionaries and those protesting against the regime among the workers and the poor, on the pretext of keeping the wheels of production turning.

The Brotherhood today is reaping some of what it has sown by the hand of its own Interior Minister, who this past January killed dozens of people, and by their crimes against the residents of El-Manial and Bayn al-Sarayat and Giza and others, the most recent victims coming on Saturday at Al-Qaed Ibrahim and on Sunday with the attacks on churches. These have created a mighty wave of popular anger against the Brotherhood that is being exploited by the army and the police to gain their mandate, on the excuse of combatting terrorism.

The omens of a return of Mubarak’s dictatorial regime are lost on no one. We have witnessed the clearest of these signs in the speech of the new Interior Minister yesterday about the return of men fired from the state security services to their old jobs of tracking political and religious activities. We have seen it in the threat to use the emergency law to disperse the sit-ins, and the intervention of the army in the workers’ sit-in at Suez Steel, among others.

This feeds our doubts about the role of the current government and the extent of its involvement in these crimes, particularly Hazem el-Beblawi, the prime minister who was the first to support the military’s “mandate” in the march at the presidential palace. It begs questions as well about those elements rejected by the revolution because of their positions after the massacre.

It is impossible for the armed forces to disperse the sit-ins and end the crisis, but it is possible for them to deepen that crisis. There is no true solution to the current crisis of our revolution other than a political path that adopts a clear vision for transitional justice, including guarantees of retribution against all those who have committed crimes against the rights of the people and our revolution–the figures of Mubarak’s regime and the military council, and also the Brotherhood and its allies.

We call to all of the proud revolutionary and social forces, to the free people among the workers and students and professionals and farmers and everyone else. We call upon you to participate in building a fighting revolutionary front so we can together confront both this increasing military fascism, as well as the opportunism and the crimes of the Brotherhood. This front must complete the goals of the January revolution and its second wave on June 30 against all those who betray it–the feloul, the military and the Brotherhood. It must achieve the goals of bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity for which the revolution still rages in Egypt.

Glory to the martyrs, victory to the revolution, disgrace upon the murderers–every murderer. All power and wealth to the people.

Revolutionary Socialists
July 28, 2013

Translation by Jess Martin

The Copts are being massacred

THE BELLS of the churches rang at the time of evening prayers, and the Copts fasted along with Muslims for Ramadan, while the state media sang a song about our heroic nationalist battle and the unity of the Egyptian people, both Muslim and Christian. But only a day later, there were efforts by supporters of the deposed president to break into three churches in the village of Degla in Minya, bombarding them with rocks and Molotov cocktails, and firing bullets at the Mary Girgis Church in Port Said. The families sought the assistance of the police/security forces, but got no response.

You might be shocked by this position of the police/security forces–after all, they dispersed the people yesterday to protect them from “potential terrorism.” So where are they now?

Actually, where were the police throughout the era of Morsi–while the crimes were committed against the Copts of Egypt, with the aim of their forcible expulsion? Not one of those involved in the police saw it as their role to stop any one of those crimes against the Copts, except when they struck against the funerals of particular martyrs. Where were they throughout the era of the military council and the era of Mubarak?

And what about our free and impartial media, which documents the crimes of the Muslim Brotherhood, but doesn’t mention the sectarian crimes occurring in the Sinai, like the murder of three Copts, among them a priest? What about the ongoing threats against Copts by extremists? Or perhaps the media is returning to sectarianism, following its incitement against the Copts while they were being run over by tanks at Maspero.

Of course, the sectarianism of the Brotherhood and its allies isn’t a new development, since they were sponsors of sectarian strife throughout the period of the military council. They continued in their inflammatory sectarian rhetoric throughout the period of Morsi’s presidency. And now, since June 30, the Brotherhood has persisted in its crimes, attacking churches and chanting sectarian slogans in their marches.

The regime is both the creator and protector of sectarianism, always invoking it as cover for the crudeness of its corruption, just as the Mubarak regime did with the Saints Church, to cover its rigging of the parliamentary elections in 2010. They use it to scatter the ranks of the revolutionaries, as the military council did with its successive attacks on the churches, beginning with Atfih and ending with the Maspero massacre. They use inflammatory sectarian rhetoric to portray every opponent as an enemy of Islam, as the Morsi regime did.

The regime will continue to feign ignorance on the issue of the Copts, and the state will continue to turn a blind eye to sectarian crimes until there is a catastrophe–at which point we see a traditional scene between the priest and sheik, with pleasant slogans repeated, which do nothing to prevent these crimes from recurring.

First among the responsibilities of the state is to protect the Copts and their houses of worship, not to tolerate their expulsion. Or doesn’t yesterday’s “mandate” from the demonstrations include that clause?

The experiences of the past few weeks have demonstrated with overwhelming evidence that the state and its institutions do not bother very much about our blood, which has flowed before the eyes of the police and army while they, on more than one occasion, stood by watching without batting an eye.

But the most important point is that this experience has proved that the masses are capable–despite the steep cost–of deterring the attacks on the neighborhoods with their popular committees, which they had to improvise because of the intentional negligence of the army and police in protecting their neighborhoods and homes.

Now we must organize our popular committees to protect ourselves from recurring assaults and to apply pressure on the negligent state apparatuses to undertake their responsibility to protect the people according to the framework of the law–without needing the “mandate” of anyone.

Yesterday, army tanks stopped on Mohammad Mahmoud Street in Cairo, in front of a graffiti tribute to the martyr Mina Daniel, to remind those who have forgotten who his killers were, and why he was martyred, and for what ends–to recall his unachieved dream and his blood, for which no one has been held accountable.

Mina died, but during the occupation of Tahrir that toppled Mubarak, he had sung with his Muslim friend, “The revolution is sweet and beautiful while you’re with me”–recognizing that the revolution could not claim victory without their unity. He knew that his freedom and dignity could not be achieved except by a revolution against the dictatorial regime of Mubarak.

Let us complete the path that Mina began, recognizing our enemy however it changes its face. Let us remember his struggle and achieve his dream.

The Office of Issues of Persecution
Revolutionary Socialists
July 28, 2013

Translation by Jess Martin

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