Crushed by the wheel: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood
The wheel has turned in Egypt and we seem to be back to the Mubarak-era practice of the security services cracking down hard on the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Egypt authorities’ decades-long repress/repress-slightly-less/tolerate/repress-gain attitude to Hassan al-Banna’s successors is back on a “repress” setting. For example, a new Amnesty briefing on the fall-out since the Republican Guard Club "massacre" of over 50 Morsi supporters on 8 July includes this on the case of 37-year-old Mostafa Ali:
Mostafa was arrested at about 4am and was held at the Club until about 3 or 4pm. He said he was arrested after he fled the tear gas into a Ministry of Planning building which was across the road in Salah Salem Street. There, he hid with his wife and others in the offices. He said Special Forces in black (from the army’s “777 unit”, which specialises in counter-terrorism) stormed the building, shooting randomly into the offices. He said he saw them shoot and kill one injured man, and that another man had died from blood loss.
Mostafa Ali said that after the security forces caught him and his wife, they pulled her niqab … and made them both crawl on broken glass in the room. They also beat and insulted him and the other protesters. The security forces then took their mobile phones and money and tied the detainees to each other with plastic handcuffs. He said the security forces forced the detainees to crawl along the ground, beating them as they went and shocking them with an electric rod on their behinds. The detainees crawled till they reached the gate of the Republican Guard Club …
And there are numerous other stories like this. Together they paint a depressing picture of Egypt’s “Praetorian Guard” dishing out arbitrary violence rather than defending the capital or its people.
Watching what’s happened in Egypt these past two and half years it seems to me that various people in Egypt keep confusing the country’s military … with, well with those that spearheaded the 2011 revolution. The “people”. As if the generals were only so many Wael Ghonims. Despite years of evidence that Egypt’s deeply entrenched military and aligned security branches would ruthlessly do the bidding of whomever of their own was in power - Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak - this idea keeps resurfacing. That the Egyptian military is somehow the true “guardian” of the Egyptian state, and now of its revolution. So for months after the overthrow of Mubarak there were banners in Tahir Square declaring “The army and the people are one” despite the fact that the army had regularly used excessive force against protesters during and after the revolution.
And despite … the crushing use of military trials against thousands of civilians after the revolution. And despite the sinister business of subjecting female protesters to “virginity tests". And despite the killing of numerous people - many Copts - in appallingly reckless incidents at the infamous Maspero TV station protest in October 2011 (see some very disturbing videos here). So despite all this and more, the military has still been cast (by some) as the true heirs of the revolution. Even with 3 July’s military-coup-in-all-but-name the military’s helicopters over Tahrir were bathed in those green lasers from the people below and their jets got in on the act the next day with “popular” celebratory Red Arrows-style aerobatics after Morsi was bundled away into indefinite detention.
Where we now go from here, I’ve no idea. But I don’t think the army and the people are one in Egypt. And I very much doubt that relying on an armed force which shoots, tear gases and runs down protesters in the streets is the best route to a better Egypt. Oh, and where is Egypt’s military likely to get its planes, tear gas and assault rifles when it needs them? Yes, from the USA and the UK …
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