Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Identify Your Enemy

That Egypt is in a state of quasi-war is clear.

Hundreds of Egyptians have been killed. In football stadia, near the Ministry of Interior, at the Cabinet sit-in, in front of the national TV building at Maspero, Egyptian lives have been taken. There is polarization along just about all spectra. Information is scarce and what little is available is mixed with rumour and fed into media which routinely adds its own spice before feeding it to a public split among too many lines. A great deal of mistrust is in the air, between every possible faction and its opposite number.  And did I mention Egyptians are getting killed? So we’re at war, quasi-war anyway.

Every war, even the quasi variety, needs an enemy. Right now, depending on who you talk to, there are four prime suspects for the title of The Real Enemy.
Namely, these are the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF); the deposed Mubarak and his family and friends - either in collusion with SCAF or not; the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and their Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the revolutionaries themselves. The logic these groups of blamers follow is sometimes straight, sometimes convoluted but simply put goes something like this:

 That SCAF is the enemy is a view held by many, maybe most, Tahreer regulars. SCAF is in power yet has done nothing to accelerate the trials of the ex-regime’s men, nothing to improve the security and economic situation, nothing to counteract the strong and growing suspicions that they want to stay in power and nothing to exact justice from those who have killed Egyptians. Furthermore, SCAF has consistently blamed “third parties” for the mayhem without naming - let alone bringing to justice - these third parties. This, the holders of this view argue, proves complicity, conspiracy or worse, direct involvement.

Others in Tahreer claim Mubarak’s men (a catchall for family and mostly business tycoon friends) are the real opponent because they are the ones with the most to lose from the revolution. They are fighting tooth and nail for their survival and the continuation of a setup of which they were the key beneficiaries, both in terms of raw power and the financial benefits this has brought them over the decades. They are well financed, well-manned and have even foretold the current turmoil scenario in the infamous speech when Mubarak himself simultaneously threatened and forecasted that it was either “him or chaos”.

Yet others see the MB/FJP as the true adversary because they got onto the revolutionary bandwagon only to achieve their less than honourable objectives of political power through majority in parliament and have, after securing their seats, abandoned the revolution. Over and above the now-majority-holding FJP have not taken serious action to promote the goals of the revolution and have clearly made a deal with SCAF.

Apart from Tahreerists, there are millions of Egyptians who view the revolutionaries themselves as the real enemy. The argument is enough is enough; these people don’t know when to stop and are acting like a bunch of spoilt, impatient brats who have been upping their demands and deadlines as soon as old ones are met. We have presidential elections in a few months; can’t they just wait instead of their continuous demonstrations and sit-ins which are the root cause of the financial and security ruin we are living in?

Each of these arguments has merit. However none of them is correct. Here’s why.

When on the 25th (and more vocally and effectively the 28th) of January 2011, Egyptians took to the streets demanding “regime change”, we were fundamentally revolting against three aspects of our lives.

The police state: unwarranted arrests, routine torture and human rights abuses, security apparatus control of everything from university professor appointments to Friday prayer sermons and even bread distribution.
2.       Social injustice: income distribution, sky-rocketing prices, widening crevice between haves and have-nots, massive financial corruption and decreasing ability of most Egyptians to make ends meet, let alone fulfil their ambitions.

      Lack of political freedoms: Draconian laws for party establishment, looming handing of presidency from Mubarak Senior to Mubarak Junior, consistent and ruthless crackdown on any potential politically threatening opposition, forged elections

These are the core reasons why we took to the streets.

The four key suspects mentioned earlier, SCAF and Mubarak’s business buddies and certainly MB/FJP and the revolutionaries themselves have little or nothing to do with any of these grievances.

Until the revolution, most Egyptians had never so much as heard of SCAF. While the army is widely accepted to be no less, but also no more, financially corrupt than the rest of the Egyptian government, they have never had interaction with the general public and thus have no role in the enacting, enforcing or promoting the police state. Likewise their involvement in impoverishing Egypt and Egyptians is peripheral at most through their corruption but not direct in any way. The same is true of restricting political freedoms. While SCAF and the army were indeed the last line of defence for Mubarak’s regime’s stability, they have never been used to enforce his dictatorship.

Similarly there is no link between Mubarak’s business buddies and human rights abuses and similar practices. Their thieving and corruption are more closely linked to social injustice in as much as their looting left less to go round (this was billions of dollars worth of looting) and their closeness to Mubarak or one of his sons allowed them to break commercial laws with impunity, laws including anti-trust, import restrictions, SEC regulations, pricing and others. They have mostly though been rather tame since the revolution and financial scandals are decreasing on a monthly basis and in any case many are already either in jail or under investigation. On the third grievance, only a few of them were very directly related to political corruption and they too are jailed or awaiting trial.

Far from being involved in arresting, detaining or torturing Egyptian citizens, the MB/FJP have over the decades frequently been on the receiving end of such practices. Seen as the only credible threat to Mubarak’s regime’s continuity, MB members were routinely harassed by police and their leadership systematically rounded up and jailed before parliamentary and local elections. Likewise, MB have historically played a positive role in the social justice sphere, financing hospitals, soup kitchens and offering financial support for Egypt’s least fortunate. Their involvement in Mubarak’s political strangulation of Egypt was as proxy. Mubarak used the MB as a scare-mongering tool, both locally and internationally.

Finally, there is no case to be made linking the revolutionaries to any the three main complaints which pushed Egyptians into revolution. None at all, so I won’t waste time. People who believe the revolutionaries are the enemy are simply redefining the objective. Instead of a better Egypt, they just want a superficially stable Egypt and they want it now.

So who then is the real enemy?

Well, it’s the police, The Ministry of Interior (MOI). Or more specifically, the much-feared State Security arm of the MOI.

It is they who we meant when we were calling for the regime to fall. It is they who have the blood of most of the revolution’s martyrs on their hands, either directly or through the forever-lurking-in-the-background third party. It is they who have access to the thugs who have been wreaking havoc throughout Egypt. It is they who have used their weapons on us. They who have kidnapped activists, tortured witnesses, destroyed evidence, shot people’s eyes out and killed demonstrators.

They were the enemy during Mubarak’s reign, they were the enemy during the earliest days of the revolution, they are the enemy now and they are the key player in all three of our fundamental grievances.
If Mubarak was a tyrant it was the police which was his tool of tyranny, the thick stick which Mubarak used to beat opponents and indeed the whole population into submission. Tens of thousands of illegally detained citizens were routinely electrocuted, beaten, threatened with rape, sodomised and subjected to every imaginable, and many unimaginable forms of torture.  All at the hands of NOT SCAF, NOT Mubarak’s business buddies, NOT MB/FJP and certainly not the revolutionaries.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, I like how you lay out and explain your theory, but I disagree with the ending.

    Bearing in mind that SCAF was a part of the Mubarak regime for decades, it'd be reasonable to assume they know what the SS is capable of doing. Which is why I find it hard to believe SCAF would leave them a free hand to act on their own accord and mind; it entails too much risk. As for the MOI as a whole, granted, corrupt units, branches and personnel anywhere within it may plot and create problems from time to time whenever the opportunity presents itself, but I don't the police as a whole is complicit in a wide-scale conspiracy against the revolution, or that they control and direct most of the thugs and the crime in the country.