“I am going down to join the rally,” a young MB woman told Watani on Friday morning. “I wish to die as a martyr.” But another young woman, obviously a non-Islamist, who overheard
her quipped back: “Why should you die? No-one attacks you Islamists or shoots at you. It’s you who do the shooting and killing, provoking clashes and forcing the police to step in. You cannot die if you don’t attack anyone. Besides, what do you mean by being a martyr? A martyr is someone who dies for the sake of Allah. You are Muslim and you are fighting other Muslims who definitely believe in Allah. So how can such a death be ‘martyrdom’?”
Egypt’s squares and public places nationwide are teeming with protestors the numbers of which are said by the media to exceed the millions of 30 June. The majority of the protestors are against the Islamist rule of the MB and the ousted president Muhammad Mursi, whereas the less in numbers—but armed and violent—are the supporters of Mursi.
The Mursi supporters call for his reinstatement as the “legitimate, democratically elected” president who was ousted by a military coup.
For the love of Egypt
Mursi’s opponents, however, don’t see matters in that light. They see him as a president who came to office through elections that reek of irregularities and fraud and, once in office, made a grab for power, turned his back on Egypt, attempted to Islamise it, and let the economy go into a free fall. The man-in-the-street in Egypt realised that, by the time Mursi would have completed his term as president three years from now, there would have been no more Egypt as we know it. The country would have been thoroughly Islamised and would have no longer been a sovereign State but only a part of a wider Islamic entity whose interest Egypt would then serve, to the detriment of Egyptians. In short, Egyptians believed that if they did not do something there and then, Egypt would be finished. As to democracy, there wouldn’t be a shred of it left.
Egyptians rebelled. On 30 June, some 33 million of them took to the street demanding the overthrow of Mursi. This led the military to give Mursi a 48-hour ultimatum to resolve the deadlock between his regime and his opponents. When Mursi belligerently rejected the ultimatum, the army stepped in on 3 July with a roadmap jointly drawn up by the military and Egypt’s civic forces, and put Mursi under house arrest.
That roadmap was put into effect by the swearing in on 4 July of an interim president, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court Adly Mansour; the formation of a panel to review Egypt’s constitution; and the establishment of a new cabinet of technocrats. A nine-month timeline has been announced during which the new constitution would be approved by the people, a new parliament elected, and finally a civilian president.
What is legitimacy?
As Egypt embarked on a path to democracy and a civic State, the Islamists waged a war of terror against them. The army and police practised restraint, the result being more violence and terrorism against the Egyptian people.
The Friday crowds gathered in response to a call last Wednesday by Colonel General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, for Egyptians to take to the streets on Friday 26 July to give him a public mandate to fight the violence and terrorism waged against the Egyptian people by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) supporters of Egypt’s overthrown president Muhammad Mursi.
“I ask all honourable Egyptians,” said an ardent, confident Sisi in dark sunglasses and full military uniform as he addressed a military graduation ceremony near Alexandria, “to go down [meaning take to the streets] next Friday. This will be to give me a mandate and command to end terrorism and violence.” He insisted he desired an end to bloodshed, and urged national reconciliation.
Sisi said he was protecting the legitimacy of the people’s will. “Legitimacy stems from the people will,” he said. “The ballot box is only a means to achieve that will and root legitimacy. But the pivotal point here is the people’s will. If the numbers on the street express that will, so be it.”
He said he would stick to the political roadmap in the wake of the 33-million strong nationwide public protest on 30 June.
A spokesman for President Mansour later said Egypt “has begun a war on terrorism”, and that Sisi’s call for protests was aimed at “preserving the State”.
Fed up with the Islamists
The Egyptian [non-Islamist] street went wild with excitement at Sisi’s speech, vowing to go down in force on Friday to give him the mandate he requested. Egyptians have suffered hard from the noisy, violent attacks waged against them by Mursi supporters who, despite their smaller numbers, are armed and violent.
Adel Samir, a young man who went down to Tahrir Square last Monday told Watani of the details. Samir had gone down to join the crowd gathered in Tahrir that afternoon to guard the square against the Islamists who went to occupy it. The MB demonstrators approached the civilian crowd and began shooting at them and beating them with clubs, sticks, and knives. “The man next to me shouted for me to push them back. ‘With what?’ I cried. I was not armed and had nothing to protect myself with, neither did any of those around me. I quickly looked around, found some stones, picked them up and started pelting the attackers. The police and army arrived then and succeeded in pushing the Islamists back.”
No ‘remote’ military
So when Sisi made his speech on Wednesday, it was welcomed with relief by all non-Islamists. Many men and women who were on holiday outside Cairo or other towns—it is midsummer in Egypt and many go to the beaches or resorts—cut short their holidays and returned home to take part in the Friday protest.
“Thank God! We were wondering when the army would make its move and release us from the chaos and horror the Brotherhood is causing,” Ahmed Mohamed, a 76-year-old pensioner, in central Cairo told Reuters.
It must be noted that, for Egyptians, the military establishment is not some remote body that is isolated from the people; the fact that most of its soldiers are conscripts and that it deals in non-military activity such as industry makes it very close to the people, if not practically part and parcel of the people.
The Islamists, however, accused Sisi of asking for a licence to kill. “This is an invitation to civil war and the spilling of the people’s blood in the streets,” the MB said in a statement published on Facebook, denouncing Sisi as head of a “military dictatorship”.
The interior ministry said it planned “unprecedented security” to protect the Friday rallies, and the health ministry said it was on high alert.
No hint of conciliation
Egyptians outside Egypt; in the Netherlands, France, and Belgium; hastened to give Sisi their authorisation to act against the terrorists.
Watani’s Fady Labib talked to the politician and former presidential candidate Abul-Ezz al-Hariri who said that the army was required to perform its duty in protecting Egypt against those who wished to ruin it, meaning the Islamists. He commended the fact that Sisi reached out to the Islamists in a conciliatory gesture when he gave them 48 hours to revise their positions, and when he insisted he cared to bring about national conciliation rather than confrontation. “The will of the army has joined that of the people,” Mr Hariri said, “and this is manifested by the numbers who took to the streets.”
The writer Hala Mustafa told Watani that the struggle between the Islamists and non-Islamists in Egypt was now a fact on the ground, and the Islamist terror is all around. “There appears on the horizon not a hint of national conciliation,” she said, “which has pushed people to take to the streets to demonstrate their will.”
For his part, the judge Amir Ramzy expressed his high respect of the courage and integrity displayed by Sisi, as well as the excellent communication he built with the Egyptian people. The call for a mandate on Friday, Mr Ramzy said, is tantamount to a poll on his popularity and the public respect he enjoys.”
Sisi: national hero
Mursi’s MB rule had succeeded with flying colours in polarising Egyptians along an Islamist line, but the 33-million strong 30 June protest which two days later led to the military-led ouster of Mursi made it very obvious that the Islamists are now in the minority. The wide majority of Egyptians are determined they will not live under Islamist rule, and Sisi is now seen as a national hero. His thoroughly Egyptian patriotism comes along in flagrant contrast to the Islamist loyalties of Mursi and his MB supporters. It was these Islamist loyalties and the support the MB freely offered to other Islamists outside Egypt—major among whom were the Hamas Palestinians and the Syrians—which always came to the detriment of Egypt, that made the MB lose all credibility and public support.
Livid at US
Citing the “current situation”, the United States said President Barack Obama had decided to delay delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to the Egyptian army.
The US and other Western nations have been calling for the release of Mursi who the Egyptian army has said was “in a safe place”. But Mursi is now being investigated over allegations of colluding with Hamas to storm police stations and prisons during the 2011 uprising, “setting fire to one prison and enabling inmates to flee, including himself, as well as the premeditated killing of officers, soldiers and prisoners”. On Friday, it was officially announced that Mursi would be imprisoned for 15 days pending investigations.
Egyptians are livid at what they see as US pressure to bring in the Islamists. Last Thursday, the National Union of Human Rights Organisations denounced what they described as “US persistence in supporting terrorism in Egypt”. They were especially alluding to a recent meeting between US ambassador to Cairo Anne Patterson and leaders of the global MB movement Muhammad Ali Bishr and Amr Darrag at the Four Seasons hotel in Cairo.
On its official online page, the Armed Forces posted, under the title “The last chance”, what it described as the meaning of Sisi’s request for a public mandate on Friday. It meant, the post said, that those who conducted violent and terrorist acts had been given a 48-hour ultimatum to revise their stance and join the national ranks. It was also meant to prove to the whole world that the change in regime in Egypt was the result of public will not a military coup. The post also said that Sisi’s request meant that the MB plans for terrorist attacks in Egypt had been uncovered and would be firmly confronted; and that its strategy in dealing with the terrorists will take on a different dimension following the Friday public mandate.
26 July 2013