As 30 June looms ahead, Egypt boils over with bitterness and rebellion against the ruling Muslim Brotherhood (MB) regime and the MB President Murs i. In what promises to be a fateful date, a sizeable portion of Egyptians have vowed to make the date on which President Mursi was sworn in one year ago a day for his departure. The Tamarud (Rebel) movement swelled in ranks from a mere handful some two months ago to over 18 million today.
It doesn’t help that Egypt is going through a whirlwind of events which, even if apparently separate, are strung by a fine line that in the end drives to rebellion. Last week saw Mursi appoint Adel al-Khayat, a member of the Gamaa Islamiya jihadi movement, governor of Luxor. It was this group that, in 1997, conducted what became notorious as the ‘Luxor massacre’ in which 58 tourists lost their lives. The group has also called for the demolition of ancient monuments, branding them as idols. The public outcry was so outrageous that Khayat resigned the post.
Sunday saw the Ismailiya Misdemeanours Court confirm that, back in January 2011, the MB conspired with members of Hamas, Hizbullah and local militants to break into Egyptian prisons, including the Wadi Natrun, and free leaders of the MB, among whom was Mursi who had been imprisoned pending investigations of conspiring with foreigners to overthrow the regime.
On the same day, an atrocious crime took place in a Giza village against a Shia family and their guests, on doubts that they were in the house to perform some Shiite rite. Four men were killed in a grisly public lynching but, worse, the villagers were unrepentant. The Egyptian Shia leaders placed the crime squarely on the shoulders of Mursi and the MB, for having flagrantly incited against the Shia, especially when he rallied Egyptians a week earlier for jihad against the regime in Syria.
Again on Sunday evening, the Minister of Defence Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi called on all Egyptian political powers to look to reconciliation and understanding in order to protect the country. Each political faction read it their own way, claiming the army was on their side.
Monday and Tuesday saw a grating bout of fuel shortage which nearly crippled the country, forced roads shut, and practically halted the entire transportation movement. But Egyptians had to listen to the Transport Minister go on public media to say there was no shortage whatsoever.
Watani decided to ask Egyptians of all walks of life the crucial question: What will you do on 30 June?
How to be a good Muslim
The young man who came to our office at Watani last week to deliver an order for sandwiches stood by as we prepared to pay him, amused at the hubbub of the news room and the unending commotion. One of our men looked at him and abruptly asked: “What will you do on 30 June?” to which the delivery boy directly answered: “I’ll go down with Tamarud, of course. All the people in our shop plan to go down to take part in the protest. We’ll close down that day, since everyone’s going down.” But another of our reporters decided to provoke him with: “But I hear that the shop owner is Ikhwan.” Ikhwan is Arabic for Brothers as in Muslim Brothers (MB).
“That’s not true,” the delivery boy answered. “We’re all sick and tired of the chaos, violence, and loss of livelihoods since Mursi came to office and the MB to which he belongs came to power. Who are they to claim they are ruling over us in the name of Islam? Or to tyrannise us and impoverish us in the name of Islamic teachings? We’ve always been Muslim; we don’t need them to tell us how to be good Muslims.”
The words of the delivery boy summed it all up. Here was a young, mainstream, Egyptian Muslim who held a modest job stating his case for the rebellion against Mursi and his MB clan. Watani decided to sound others on “what will you do on 30 June?”
“We have to go”
Suzanne William, a widow in her fifties who lives in the high-end Cairo district of Mohandisseen was not taken by surprise at my question. “I’ve given it a lot of thought,” she said. “I can’t go out on my own neither can others in the same situation who never were into politics or activism. I called friends and acquaintances, and we decided to gather at our club, the Gezira Sporting club, and head together to Tahrir Square to join the protests there.” I asked why Tahrir and not the Presidential Palace in the east Cairo district of Heliopolis, but she said they feared violent clashes there with Mursi supporters, so decided to hold their rally in Tahrir Square in central Cairo, where the 2011 January Revolution first took off. “Tahrir will always stand for revolution,” she insisted.
Other women I met had divergent views which, as I observed, had nothing to do with age or social standing. Another Mohandisseen woman who is in her thirties and is a mother of two, said she could not think of leaving her children that day, so had decided with the other mothers in the same apartment building to go down and hold a stand in front of their building. “We will raise Egyptian flags, and hold banners calling for the fall of the MB rule,” she said. “If others do as we do, she said, not a street or alley in Egypt but will be declaring rebellion in its own way.”
Milad Bishara and his wife Isis, both in their seventies, said they will join the Tamarud demonstrators in front of the Presidential Palace. Seeing their age, I couldn’t help blurting if they were sure it would be safe for them? “We have to go,” they said with quiet determination.
The safety of home
Wafaa’ Sayed Ahmad who is Follow-up Manager at the Journalist’s Syndicate in Cairo, and is a mother of three sons the eldest of whom is a university student, said that she had taken leave that day and would stay at home. “Several others of my colleagues decided to do so,” Ahmad said. “We just feel we’ve had more than our full of violence, killings, and instability for over two-and-a-half years now.” She said that, with the threats by Mursi supporters against his opponents, 30 June promised to be another day of ruin and violence, “I won’t leave the safety of my home on that day.
“But don’t get me wrong,” she said, “I’m not for Mursi staying on. In fact, I didn’t vote for him. I believe the best-case scenario for Egypt would be early presidential elections, for some moderate patriot to replace Mursi. Instead of trying to get all Egyptians to rally behind the Egyptian flag to rebuild the country and its ravaged economy, the President and the MB have been inciting against non-Islamists and turning the Egyptian scene into a sectarian one par excellence. When they pronounce as infidels those who dare rebel and demand that the President should leave, and when they brand the 30 June rebellion as an act hostile to ++sharia++ (Islamic law) and legitimacy, and in complicity with the Mubarak regime, you can be sure the day will end in bloodshed. And it is dear Egyptian blood that will be spilt, and that will grieve us all.
“But I have faith that Allah will not abandon us. Egypt has been favourably mentioned in the Qur’an.”
“We won’t be frightened off”
“How can I not participate in the rebellion on 30 June?” Muhammad Gassem who holds a Masters degree in Business Administration, asked in disapprobation. “Didn’t you hear Mursi and other MB leaders say that whoever went out against him was going against Islam and legitimacy? They branded us as infidels!
“Egypt has always been a place where people of different faiths lived side by side; now the MB are trying to turn it into a sectarian State. I will not accept that. Even if I die, it is better to die with dignity than to lose all self-respect under the MB.”
Gassem insisted that Mursi had already lost all legitimacy as an Egyptian president when he allowed foreign powers, the Hamas Palestinians, the Syrians, and the Americans to have a say in Egypt’s internal affairs. “He never did anything when our soldiers were killed in Rafah, or when our sons are being targeted every day by Jihadis in Sinai. He put his Arab allegiance before his loyalty to Egypt and his countrymen.”
On the other end of the spectrum stands Muhammad Taymour, a graduate of the Islamic College of Sharia. Taymour insists that obedience to the ruler is a religious duty, and that rebelling against him is a sin against Alllah. “I will be with Mursi’s supporters in front of the Presidential Palace or at Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. But I will never be part of any violence against any other Egyptian. And if I find that foreigners have broken into our ranks I will directly leave.”
Taymour said he wished Egyptians would give Mursi another chance, even though he admitted that matters under Mursi were certainly worse than before he came to office. “But corruption cannot be obliterated overnight,” he said.
The over 60-years-old consultant dentist Sabry Abdel-Malak tried to evade my question of what he would do on 30 June, joking that he never had anything to do with politics, but my pleading persuaded him that his opinion carried special significance. “I belong to the medical profession,” he said. “It is our duty to be there for the injured. In demonstrations throughout the last two years we have had to fix broken jaws and facial bones in injuries that were by far the worst I encountered in my near 40-year career.”
But Dr Abdel-Malak has a special grievance against the Mursi regime. “My work at public hospitals,” he said, “has brought home the appalling mismanagement of the regime. In the medical field, this directly impacts the health of Egyptians. Dwindling funds have driven hospitals to do without experienced consultants. In the majority of public sector hospitals, managers and directors have been dismissed and replaced with MB staff; as though the only standard today is allegiance to the MB. All this has deducted from the quality of health care the Egyptian patient receives, a very sorry state.”
“We go by faith”
I was surprised to run into an Egyptian Canadian woman, Nagwa Nagy, who was on a visit to Cairo these days. Nagy had worked with the Egyptian State TV before she immigrated to Canada some 15 years ago. “Weren’t you afraid to come to Egypt now? Or didn’t you realize what was going on?” I asked. “Oh no!” she said, “We follow every minute detail of what goes on in Egypt. My brother and relatives live here, and it is very important for us to know how they are doing.”
“Then you didn’t fear for yourself when you came?” I couldn’t help asking. “We are in the hands of God,” Nagy said. “The Bible says ‘Blessed be Egypt my people’, so the Lord’s promise can never fail. Egypt is today in crisis, but I’m sure it will overcome.” And in reply to my query about 30 June, she replied in all honesty: “I don’t know. I’m not yet decided what I’ll do.”
Once I posed the question “what will you do on 30 June” to the twenty-something garage labourer Abdel-Hadi al-Zeini, he raised his hands and cried: “May Allah deal with you, Mursi!” He looked at me and said: “Egypt has been ruined. Mursi and his [MB] group climbed to power on the shoulders of the fine young men and women who made the revolution in January 2011.
“I am very sad that I cannot leave my work and go out in rebellion. Work is not easy to come by these days. I know of other garage workers or car parks who have been threatened by the MB to go down in support of Mursi or lose their livelihood. I was lucky to escape that threat, but I cannot risk losing my livelihood.
“To tell you the truth, I voted for Mursi. I thought this was a man of God who would do all righteousness. All I wanted was to eat a good meal, live in a decent home, and work well. Now I bitterly own that all these are things of the past.”
26 June 2013