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By Glenn Greenwald
December 03, 2014 “ICH” – “The Intercept” – Ever since then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led a coup against the country’s elected president, Mohamed Morsi, the coup regime has become increasingly repressive, brutal and lawless. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, the Obama administration has become increasingly supportive of the despot in Cairo, plying his regime with massive amounts of money and weapons and praising him (in the words of John Kerry) for “restoring democracy.” Following recent meetings with Sisi by Bill and Hillary Clinton (pictured above), and then Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, Obama himself met with the dictator in late September and “touted the longstanding relationship between the United States and Egypt as a cornerstone of American security policy in the Middle East.”
All of this occurs even as, in the words of a June report from Human Rights Watch, the Sisi era has included the “worst incident of mass unlawful killings in Egypt’s recent history” and “judicial authorities have handed down unprecedented large-scale death sentences and security forces have carried out mass arrests and torture that harken back to the darkest days of former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.” The New York Times editorialized last month that “Egypt today is in many ways more repressive than it was during the darkest periods of the reign of deposed strongman Hosni Mubarak.”
As heinous as it has been, the Sisi record has worsened considerably in the last week. On Friday, an Egyptian court dismissed all charges against the previous U.S.-supported Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak stemming from the murder of 239 democracy protesters in 2011. The ruling also cleared his interior minister and six other aides. It also cleared him and his two sons of corruption charges, while upholding a corruption charge that will almost certainly entail no further prison time. The ruling wasbased on a mix of conspiracy theories and hyper-technical and highly dubious legal findings.
But while Mubarak and his cronies are immunized for their savage crimes, 188 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who participated in anti-Sisi protests that led to the deaths of 11 police officers, were handed death sentences today en masse. As the New York Times notes, it was “the third such mass sentencing in less than a year,” and was handed down despite “no effort to prove that any individual defendant personally killed any of the officers; that more than 100 of the defendants were not allowed to have lawyers; and that scores of defense witnesses were excluded from the courtroom.” The judge ordering these mass executions was the same cretinous judicial officer who, over the summer, sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to seven to ten years in prison.
The implications are obvious. Reuters today reports that the Mubarak acquittal is widely seen as the final proof of the full return of the Mubarak era, as the crushing of the 2011 revolution. Political Science Professor As’ad AbuKhalil argues, convincingly, that re-imposing dictatorial rule in Egypt to mercilessly crush the Muslim Brotherhood is what the U.S., Israel and the Saudi-led Gulf monarchs have craved since the unrest in 2011. With the Gulf monarch’s rift with Brotherhood-supporting Qatar now resolved, all relevant powers are united behind full restoration of the tyranny that controlled Egypt for decades.
Beyond the political meaning, the two starkly different judicial rulings demonstrate that judicial independence in Egypt is a farce, that courts are blatantly used for political ends to serve the interests of the regime, harshly punishing its political opponents and protecting its allies:
Rights advocates argued that the juxtaposition — hyper-scrupulousness in the case of the former president, a rush to the gallows for the Islamist defendants — captured the systematic bias of the Egyptian courts.
“It is just one more piece of evidence that the judiciary is just a political tool the government uses to prosecute its enemies and free the people it wants to be freed,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director of the nonprofit group Human Rights Watch.
In one sense, it would be nice for the U.S. Government to condemn all of this, and even better if they cut off support for the regime as punishment. But in another, more meaningful sense, such denunciation would be ludicrous, given what enthusiastic practitioners U.S. officials are of similar methods.
Fully protecting high-level lawbreakers – even including torturers and war criminals – is an Obama specialty, a vital aspect of his legacy. A two-tiered justice system – where the most powerful financial and political criminals are fully shielded while ordinary crimes are punished with repugnant harshness – is the very definition of the American judicial process, which imprisons more of its ordinary citizens than any other country in the world, even as it fully immunizes its most powerful actors for far more egregious crimes.
Indeed, in justifying his refusal to condemn the dropping of charges against Mubarak, Sisi seemed to take a page from Obama’s own rhetorical playbook. Egypt must “look to the future” and “cannot ever go back,” he said when cynically invoking judicial independence as his reason for not condemning the pro-Mubarak ruling. The parallels to Obama’s own justifications for not prosecuting U.S. torturers and other war criminals – “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards” – are self-evident.
It may be true that U.S. courts don’t simultaneously sentence hundreds of political protesters to die en masse, but the U.S. government is in no position to lecture anyone on the indiscriminate and criminal use of violence for political ends. As of today, Obama officials can officially celebrate the War on Terror’s 500th targeted killing far from any battlefield (450 of which occurred under Obama), strikes which have killed an estimated 3,674 people. As CFR’s Micah Zenko put it, “it is easy to forget that this tactic, envisioned to be rare and used exclusively for senior al-Qaeda leaders thirteen years ago, has become a completely accepted and routine foreign policy activity.”
Condemnation of Egyptian tyranny has always been an uncomfortable matter for U.S. officials given how they long used Mubarak’s favorite torturers to extract information from detainees in their custody. Indeed, once Mubarak’s downfall became inevitable, the Obama administration worked to ensure that his replacement would be the CIA’s long-time torturing and rendition partner, close Mubarak ally Omar Suleiman. And, just by the way, the U.S. also imprisoned an Al Jazeera journalist – in Guantanamo – for seven years until casually letting him go as though nothing had happened.
It seemed like just yesterday that American media outlets were pretending to be on the side of the Tahrir Square demonstrates, all while suppressing the unpleasant fact that the dictator against which they were marching was one of the U.S. government’s longest and closest allies, a murderous tyrant about whom Hillary Clinton said: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.” It’s an extraordinary feat of propaganda that all of that has been washed away – again – and the U.S. is right back to acting as stalwart ally to a repressive and incredibly violent dictator sitting in Cairo doing its bidding.
Photos: Clintons with Sisi: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
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By Kumaran Ira
3 December 2014
In his first trip to Europe, beginning last week in Rome, Egyptian dictator General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stopped in Paris on November 26-27, holding talks with Socialist Party (PS) President François Hollande, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, top officials including the speakers of both houses of parliament, and French business leaders.
The French and Italian governments hailed Sisi, who slaughtered thousands of protesters on the streets of Cairo during his July 2013 coup against Muslim Brotherhood (MB) President Mohamed Mursi, as a strategic partner. It was an explicit green light from European imperialist powers for Sisi to continue using mass killings to terrorize political opposition in Egypt and delay a renewed revolutionary upsurge in the working class.
Sisi’s trip to Paris came as tens of thousands of political prisoners and their families mounted a hunger strike against the Egyptian junta, and steel workers struck for back pay. The Sisi junta has killed over 1,400 people and jailed over 15,000. Sisi has banned the MB and sentenced over 500 of its members to death in mass show trials, while imposing austerity measures on the working class including massive fuel price increases.
The Hollande administration made clear that it supported the policies of Egypt’s Pinochet. Before Sisi’s visit, an anonymous source close to Hollande told the press: “Yes, we consider Sisi to be legitimate. But there’s a lot to talk about.”
Initial reports claimed that Hollande would address issues of democratic rights while meeting Sisi on November 26. The Reporters Without Borders NGO sent a letter to Hollande, asking him to raise the “crackdown in a shocking manner on journalists in the name of combating terrorism.”
None of these issues were discussed, however, when Hollande warmly received Sisi at the Elysée Presidential palace, focusing on economic and military cooperation. After talks with Sisi, Hollande praised Egypt as a “great country and a big partner for France.”
“We hope that this process, this process of democratic transition will continue, respecting the road map that will fully allow for the success of Egypt,” Hollande said at a joint news conference.
Hollande’s cynical remarks came as Alexandria courts handed jail sentences of two to five years to a group of juveniles, aged 13 to 17, for belonging to “an outlawed group,” after they participated in protests called by the Muslim Brotherhood calling for the fall of the Sisi junta.
The talks also dealt with economy, military and security cooperation. Al-Sisi said his talks with Hollande were “fruitful” and reflected a common consensus between Paris and Cairo on bilateral, regional and international relations.
Hollande revealed that he had signed economic agreements worth hundreds of millions in Egypt, including a €700 million Suez Canal deal and the refurbishing of Cairo’s subway system. On the second day of his trip, the Egyptian delegation met top French business officials.
Despite its cynical efforts to somewhat distance itself from the crimes of the Sisi junta, Paris is continuing to arm the bloodstained Egyptian military to the teeth. French shipbuilder DCNS has signed a €1 billion contract to furnish four corvettes to the Egyptian Navy. The two countries are also discussing the renewal of Egypt’s stock of French-built Mirage 2000 fighter jets.
“This deal opens doors because it is prompting enormous interest in the Gulf countries,” a French government source added.
Sisi and Hollande also discussed cooperating in the “war on terror,” with Hollande insisting, “We have to act together to fight terrorism.”
“Egypt is a country affected by terrorism, both in the past and in the present, and particularly in the Sinai Peninsula,” Hollande said. “In southern Libya terrorists are taking root, which would threaten and already threatens the entire region. We have all the proof.”
Hollande’s bogus claims to be waging a “war on terror” are a fraudulent pretext for aggressively advancing French imperialist interests in the Middle East and Africa, where it is fighting a war in Mali and threatening to mount a renewed invasion of Libya.
The bloody chaos and the growth of Islamist terrorism in Libya is a direct product of NATO’s bloody military intervention in 2011, after mass working class uprisings toppled pro-imperialist regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. The NATO powers, prominently including France, bombed Libya and recklessly armed Islamist opposition militias in order to oust Gaddafi and pillage Libya’s oil and financial wealth.
The goal of these wars, like that of Sisi’s coup itself, is to terrorize and intimidate the working class, in a region where workers have already toppled two bloody dictators. Hollande’s reference to the terrorist threat in the poverty-stricken Sinai Peninsula—which has seen a reign of terror unleashed by the Sisi regime junta, imposing martial law, arbitrary arrests, forced eviction of thousands of people after demolishing their homes
Hollande and al-Sisi claimed that they agreed on the need to establish a peace process between Palestine and Israel, after both governments backed the Israeli assault on Gaza that took the lives of thousands of Palestinians during the summer. The PS took the unusual move of banning outright protests against the Gaza war.
Hollande cynically declared, “We must set out again to demonstrate the necessity of negotiations to seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” In fact, this fraudulent “peace plan” aims to maintain the subjugation of Palestinian territory to the dictates of Israel and its imperialist allies, while dividing the Arab and Jewish working class along ethnic lines.
On November 27, al-Sisi visited the French National Assembly, surrounded by an honor guard, where he met with PS legislators including its majority leader Claude Bartolone, who hailed Sisi’s pro-business reforms against the Egyptian working class.
The National Assembly voted 339 to 151 to approve a resolution recognising the Palestinian state yesterday. The Senate is due to vote on the resolution on December 11.
1 December 2014
The acquittal Saturday of deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on charges of corruption and state murder is a statement by the regime of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that it intends to carry through the counterrevolution and make the restoration of military dictatorship permanent.
The whitewashing of Mubarak’s role in the killing of 846 people and wounding of 6,000 by police snipers and thugs during the revolutionary upsurge that toppled him in 2011 is part of the drive by the bourgeoisie and its supporters in the upper-middle class to crush the resistance of the Egyptian working class. “It is very common to find [news] anchors openly saying that 25 January was a ‘conspiracy that the West plotted,’” one foreign diplomat in Cairo told Al Ahram. Another said that officials of Egypt’s political parties now believe “Mubarak was a good man who made a few mistakes.”
Outside Tahrir Square, which security forces sealed before the verdict was announced, police attacked a protest of several thousand people with water cannon and live ammunition, killing two and wounding nine.
Like all great revolutionary upheavals, the Egyptian revolution has passed through definite stages. The revolution began with a massive upsurge of the working class against the Mubarak dictatorship, a key instrument of US imperialism and Israeli policy in the Middle East. In Egypt as in previous revolutions, the bourgeoisie responded in the initial stages by seeking to adapt itself to the mass movement, buying time and reorganizing its forces while it prepared the counter-offensive.
At this stage, democratic slogans generally prevail, and so it was in the initial days after the upsurge that began in Egypt on January 25, 2011. The Egyptian ruling class and its sponsors in Washington sought to keep Mubarak in power, vaguely promising democratic reforms. When bloody repression failed to crush the mass upsurge, in which the working class began to emerge as the major social force, US imperialism and the Egyptian bourgeoisie reluctantly removed Mubarak and installed a new, supposedly more “democratic,” military regime in the form of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
The liberal bourgeoisie, represented by figures such as Mohamed El-Baradei, backed the new regime. It was joined by petty-bourgeois organizations such as the Revolutionary Socialists, who rallied behind the new military rulers and even vouched for their “democratic” intentions.
But this initial tactical shift failed to put an end to the revolutionary upsurge. The ruling class and Washington turned to the Muslim Brotherhood and engineered the coming to power as president of its candidate Mohamed Mursi. The Revolutionary Socialists and similar organizations of the privileged middle classes now came behind the Muslim Brotherhood, promoting its accession to power as a “victory” for the revolution.
The right-wing policies of the bourgeois Islamist regime only fueled the anger of the working class. In 2013, the Egyptian proletariat waged a stormy offensive against Mursi. While 2011 had seen over 1,000 strikes and protests, five times more than in the years before the revolution, the first half of 2013 alone saw 5,500.
The ruling class reacted by exploiting the political confusion of the masses, in the absence of a revolutionary Marxist leadership, to prepare a counterrevolutionary strike in the guise of a popular uprising against Mursi. Groups such as the Revolutionary Socialists, petrified by the mounting wave of working class struggles, played a critical role in promoting the military-backed Tamarod (“Rebel”) movement, which called for the military to remove Mursi from power.
The Revolutionary Socialists and other supposedly “left” groups that initially opposed Mubarak joined the liberals in supporting the July 3, 2013 coup led by al-Sisi, who proceeded to massacre thousands of anti-coup protesters in the streets, arrest tens of thousands more, and impose sweeping energy price hikes on the working class.
The acquittal of Mubarak is the outcome of this counterrevolutionary offensive, the aim of which is to restore military rule, utilizing if anything even more brutal methods than under Mubarak.
Once again, the counterrevolutionary role of the bourgeoisie, in the former colonial countries no less than in the imperialist centers, has been demonstrated. So has the impossibility of realizing the democratic aspirations of the masses outside of a revolutionary struggle under the leadership of the working class against all factions of the bourgeoisie on the basis of a program for workers’ power and socialism, and an international strategy linking the revolution in any one country to the world socialist revolution.
Inevitably in the course of a revolution, whatever the initial democratic pretensions of the bourgeoisie, the problems that drove the masses into struggle come to the fore. They seek to gain something from the struggles they have waged, while the opposition of the ruling elites to all such demands acquires an ever more vicious form. To the extent that the masses have not worked through the political challenges facing the revolution, social reaction gains strength and reconquers the positions it had lost.
The bitter experience to date of the Egyptian revolution has brought to the fore the most critical problem facing the working class not only in Egypt, but internationally—the crisis of revolutionary leadership.
Even the most enormous upsurge of the oppressed masses cannot by itself secure the basic demands and interests of the working class. The ruling classes and their agents—such as the pseudo-left organizations of the privileged middle class—are able to take advantage of the political confusion in the working class that is the result of the historic betrayals carried out by its old bureaucratic leaderships—Stalinist, social democratic, trade union.
A revolutionary party with deep roots in the working class must be built to direct the mass struggles to the conquest of power and the expropriation of the bourgeoise.
The International Committee of the Fourth International understood this very well and warned from the earliest days of the Egyptian revolution of the necessity for an independent perspective and organization of the working class. In a Perspective column published February 10, 2011 on the World Socialist Web Site, we wrote:
“The revolutionary Marxists must counsel workers against all illusions that their democratic aspirations can be achieved under the aegis of bourgeois parties. They must expose ruthlessly the false promises of the political representatives of the capitalist class. They must encourage the creation of independent organs of workers’ power which can become, as the political struggle intensifies, the basis for the transfer of power to the working class. They must explain that the realization of the workers’ essential democratic demands is inseparable from the implementation of socialist policies.
“Above all, revolutionary Marxists must raise the political horizons of Egyptian workers beyond the borders of their own country. They must explain that the struggles that are now unfolding in Egypt are inextricably linked to an emerging global process of world socialist revolution, and that the victory of the revolution in Egypt requires not a national, but an international strategy… In this global struggle, the greatest and indispensable ally of the Egyptian masses is the international working class.”
These lines have been absolutely vindicated. The bitter experience of the Egyptian revolution must become the impetus to undertake the struggle to build the necessary revolutionary leadership in the working class. The decisive question facing the working class in Egypt and in every country is the construction of sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Cairo on Friday calling for ouster of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
The rally turned violent after security forces opened fire on the protesters in the district of Matrya in eastern Cairo, witnesses say.
Ahead of the protests, Egyptian police arrested more than 100 alleged Muslim Brotherhood members on suspicion of planning violent rallies after Friday Prayers.
Meanwhile, government officials say two senior Egyptian army officers were killed and two others wounded during an attack by unidentified assailants in Cairo on Friday.
Egyptian security forces have already been deployed to key spots around the country.
Earlier, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim warned that security forces will use all means to counter what he called incitements.
Ibrahim added that soldiers have been authorized to use lethal force to counter any assault against public property.
The Egyptian government has so far jailed more than 15,000 supporters of the former president, Mohamed Morsi, ever since the army toppled him in July 2013.
Morsi still awaits several trials which, if found guilty, may carry the death penalty.
Human rights groups say about 1,400 people have been killed, 22,000 arrested, and some 200 people handed death sentences in the turmoil since Morsi’s ouster, which was led by the current president and former head of the armed forces, el-Sisi.
By Jean Shaoul
1 November 2014
The military regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has issued a raft of decrees aimed at stamping out dissent and consolidating the military’s power.
Al-Sisi, who holds absolute executive power pending parliamentary elections that may be held in December or January, issued a decree authorising the military to guard vital public facilities. Anyone attacking such facilities, including but not limited to power stations, the electricity distribution network, pipelines, oil and gas installations and the transport network, will be subject to a military trial.
The abolition of military trials for civilians was one of the key demands of the mass uprising that toppled the dictator Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
Al-Sisi cited the ongoing violence in the poverty stricken north Sinai, and bombings and kidnappings in Cairo and elsewhere, as the justification for what amounts to martial law. He also declared a three-month state of emergency in north Sinai along with a 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew, following an attack by militants that killed more than 30 security officials and injured another 30. While hundreds of security personnel have been killed in the past year since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) President Mohammed Mursi, this was the deadliest single incident.
The government has deployed 7,000 military personnel and army helicopters in north Sinai, targeting the militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and killing and arresting hundreds of people whom it claims are “terrorists”.
It has worked closely with both the US and Israel. Last month, Washington supplied Egypt with 10 Apache helicopters “to help the Egyptian government counter extremists who threaten US, Egyptian and Israeli security”, while Tel Aviv has allowed Egypt to deploy a larger number of troops in Sinai than permitted under the 1978-79 Camp David Accords. Cairo has in turn allowed Israel to carry out a series of drone attacks and surveillance sorties on Sinai, despite having earlier insisted that it would not allow other countries to use Egyptian territory to launch attacks.
In an act of supreme cynicism and vindictiveness, the military regime closed Gaza’s sole crossing point into Egypt at Rafah until “further notice”—claiming that the militants were operating out of Gaza—thereby intensifying Israel’s seven-year blockade of Gaza. Cairo said it would expand the “buffer zone” between Sinai and Gaza, clear all the tunnels into Gaza and demolish 680 homes along the border in an operation named “temporary demographic redistribution.”
This comes just days after a donors’ conference in Cairo that pledged $5.4 billion to Gaza, half of which is to be spent on reconstruction, much less than the $4 billion that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had asked for.
The ostensible target of these and other new laws are the Islamists and MB, as there are new powers to control the mosques and at least 12,000 clerics have been banned from delivering sermons.
Former President Mursi has been served with another charge that carries the death sentence—passing on security information to Qatar. He already faces the death penalty in three separate trials.
Last July, a court sentenced MB leader Mohammed Badie to life imprisonment and confirmed 10 death sentences on MB members, nine of them in absentia. Hundreds of Islamists and their supporters have been sentenced to death in drumhead trials.
This follows a crackdown on the Brotherhood that resulted in the deaths of at least 3,000 people, 1,000 of whom were killed in a single day, and the imprisonment of more than 16,000, according to official figures. Activists claim that the real number of those detained is 40,000.
The real target of this repression is the working class and young people. The military junta fears another mass eruption by Egypt’s restive youth and workers over increasing unemployment, poverty, power and water outages, removal of subsidies, violence, kidnappings, corruption and injustice, as well as the return to government of former Mubarak-era figures.
Such have been the tensions in the universities that the authorities delayed the start of the new semester by one month, until October 11, to enable security and surveillance measures to be put in place. Since then, police have stormed at least five universities, killing one student at Alexandria University, and detaining hundreds on charges including destroying public property and violating a protest law even stricter than those laws in place during the Mubarak era.
On Monday, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab announced that the new law applied to schools and universities, and even to school children and students, saying that they could be tried by military courts if they “sabotaged” educational facilities.
The next day, the government sent the military into Mansoura University where students were protesting, demanding the release of fellow students detained by the authorities and denouncing the deployment of troops in Sinai. Armed forces were sent in to back up police who used tear gas to disperse the students.
The government has given university presidents new powers to expel students or sack staff suspected of “crimes that disturb the academic process.” Cairo University has banned all political activity.
The police are to be expanded under new arrangements called “Community Police” to include civilians who will be allowed to make arrests, creating a vast system of neighbourhood informers and intimidation.
Restrictive laws require NGOs to register before November 10. In a vaguely worded law, any organisation or person charged with receiving money from an overseas organisation or country could end up in jail for life.
There has been a massive crackdown on the media, exemplified by the kangaroo trial of the three Al-Jazeera journalists, that has stifled any criticism of the military regime. Now the government is examining mechanisms for policing online and social media.
While the military junta has established a ruthless dictatorship, declaring it is putting an end to “terrorism” and restoring “stability”, its real aim is to impose reign of terror against the working class.
The military acceded to Mubarak’s ouster in 2011 to prevent the working class joining up with the student-led protest movement. It then worked closely with the Muslim Brotherhood after it came to power in June 2012 to contain the revolution, with al-Sisi himself heading the Ministry of Defence in Mursi’s government. In July 2013, the military launched an illegal coup to pre-empt a mass uprising by the working class and youth against Mursi and the Brotherhood.
Since then the military has used the pretext of fighting terrorism to legitimise the return of a bloody dictatorship in Egypt and carry out new attacks on the working class. It has worked closely with the most reactionary forces on the planet, including the US, the feudal House of Saud and the Gulf sheikdoms of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These are the same forces that funded, armed and trained Islamist terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, Al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to carry out wars of regime change in Libya and Syria on behalf of the imperialist powers.
More recently, al-Sisi deployed Egypt’s military forces in Libya, along with those of the UAE, on behalf of Khalifa Hifter, the renegade general close to the CIA, further destabilising the war-torn country. This is the first time in decades that Egypt has deployed the military outside its own borders.
None of this could have been carried out without the pseudo-left and liberal organisations, which consciously channelled the mass protests against Mursi and the MB behind the army.
The military coup did not constitute a “second revolution” against the MB as forces like Tamarod, the liberal and Nasserite parties of the National Salvation Front, or pseudo-left groups like the Revolutionary Socialists claimed. Instead, it paved the way for the return of a military-police state whose aim is to intensify the crackdown not only on its Islamist rivals in the Egyptian bourgeoisie, but on the working class—the main force behind the revolution.
By Ramzy Baroud
October 30, 2014 “ICH” – Sinai is both heaven and hell. This triangular desert boasts an arid landscape of hopeless horizons often interrupted by leftover military hardware from previous wars. The land is comprised of breathtaking beaches, incredible history, and a fusion of fascinating cultures that reach back into the past as far as ancient times can possibly go. This thrilling land of contradictions is amazing, yet lethal.
But Sinai is also a place where hundreds of thousands of mostly poor people struggle to survive against incredible odds. Although poverty and illiteracy in Egypt can reach exceptional heights, hardship in Sinai is especially worse.
Since Israel returned the last of Sinai territories to Egypt in 1982, I visited the place nearly ten times, the last being two years ago. And each time, the situation seemed considerably worse.
There was once a time when Sinai thrived in hope; that’s when much of Sinai was being reclaimed by Egypt, one piece at a time. Israel bargained every step of the way, before it finally left Taba, but not before having gained many conditions. It even placed limits on the number of Egyptian soldiers that could be simultaneously stationed in Sinai at a given time. Since then, the desert the size of 60,000 sq km has been impossible to control.
Not that Sinai – perceived as unruly and ungovernable land, rife with drug dealers, kidnappers, and, as of late of “jihadists” and “terrorists” – needs more military force. Violence in Sinai often goes unreported. The area is almost vacant of any independent journalists. News of killings, arrests, torture and a whole host of human rights violations arrive in bits and pieces, hardly ever followed by informed investigations. Few, if any are ever held accountable.
But violence emerging from Sinai itself, however predicable, considering the level of misery, destitution and poverty, is often extenuated by the media and exploited by Cairo to the maximum. The overall nature of violence in Sinai remains a mystery, and not by accident. The explanation is almost always politically motivated, followed by pre-calculated moves to blame certain parties and punish others. This is unlikely to change soon.
Following well-coordinated attacks that killed scores of security personnel in northeast Sinai on Friday, 24 October, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addressed Egyptians in a televised speech as he was surrounded by a throng of men in military fatigues. Even before any thorough investigation, or any clear evidence, he denounced the “foreign hands” behind the attacks.
He took on the “foreign powers who are trying to break Egypt’s back,” vowing to fight extremism in a long-term campaign. Washington quickly offered its support for the proposed campaign. Even Palestinian Authority PresidentMahmoud Abbas declared his support.
Israeli media were particularly interested in the proposed Egyptian security measures. Radio Israel and the Jerusalem Post cited Egyptian media reports on 25 October, saying that “the government plans to establish a buffer zone along the Sinai frontier with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.”
Hamas, which is struggling to cope with the aftermath of Israel’s massive 51-day war on the Strip and is working to end the siege, has no interest in carrying out bloody attacks on Egyptian soldiers that will prolong the suffering of Gazans and further alienate the movement.
The Post quoted Egypt’s Al-Yom a-Sab’a: “The Egyptian buffer will extend between 1.5 and 3 kilometres. The security forces will work to clear the area of underground tunnels leading to Gaza and it will also level any buildings and structures that could be used to conceal smuggling activity.
Other arbitrary actions are also expected to be taken which will further the isolation of Gaza. Is this why Mahmoud Abbas is particularly sympathetic to the ‘anti-terror’ measures initiated by Sisi?
If the intentions are truly to curb attacks in Sinai, knee-jerk military solutions will backfire. Past government violent campaigns only frustrated a difficult situation in Sinai, where poverty stands at 45 percent.
In his speech, Sisi called on Egyptians to “be aware of what is being hatched against us”. “All that is happening to us is known to us and we expected it and talked about it before 3 July,” he said, referring to the day the military overthrewMohammed Morsi.
But Sinai turmoil has preceded the revolution, the election of Morsi, the coup and all the rest. The security vacuum that followed Egypt’s recent turmoil has indeed exasperated violence in the Sinai Peninsula, but that violence was rooted in a largely different political reality.
The deadly Sinai bombings of October 2004, and attack on tourists in April 2005, on Sharm el-Sheikh resort in the same year, and on Dahab in 2006, were all indicative of a different kind of war launched by militants and tribesmen. Sinai has been exploited by large multinationals who created perfectly serene communities for wealthy European and rich Arab tourists, but excluded the Bedouins, who had been promised major economic rewards. However, they got none.
The National Project for the Development of the Sinai was supposed to inject $20.5 billion into Sinai infrastructure between 1995 to 2017. That proved to be just hype; a mixture of unfinished projects and robust speeches. Sinai is only remembered in national celebrations to merely further highlight the might of the military that liberated it. And now, it’s demonised as a terrorist hub for the same reason.
After the final Israeli withdrawal from Sinai in 1982, the population of the Peninsula had to contend with issues pertaining to their group identity. Their tribal affiliations were too great to be discounted, but their eagerness to be included in the larger Egyptian society was euphoric. But Cairo did so little to bring Sinai’s population, especially the Bedouins, any closer. With time, disillusionment grew into resentment, and eventually violence. They are angry, and have every right to feel that way.
As long as Cairo continues to view Sinai with suspiscion and mistrust, using the desert and its inhabitants as a platform for political opportunities to be exploited, thus carrying out one violent campaign after another to reassert the relevance of the army, these sad episodes will continue. The people of Sinai have suffered tremendously from neglect and poverty and now, extreme violence. Sisi’s promised campaign of yet more security solutions, will hardly ease Sinai’s burden, or bring an iota of hope to its disheartened people.
Ramzy Baroud is a PhD scholar in People’s History at the University of Exeter. He is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).
Over the weekend, the former Egyptian Interior Minister under Hosni Mubarak, Habib El-Adly, gave a speech at his own retrial in Cairo, Egypt. Among a number of generic statements, El-Adly made at least two bombshell claims during his testimony that have received little to no coverage in the Western press.
One of these claims was that the United States was behind the 2011 Egyptian revolution which overthrew Hosni Mubarak. The other, however, was that the Egyptian intelligence agencies and Interior Ministry received information regarding a developing terrorist operation against the United States in September, 2001 and that the Egyptians warned the United States twice ahead of time. According to El-Adly, these warnings were completely ignored.
In his televised testimony, El-Adly stated,
In May 2001, we received information that a very huge terrorist attack will happen in the USA. How? The source of the information was inside the lair of Al-Qaeda. And we verified it, that there were preparations for the attack.
I talked to the President (Mubarak) and I told him that I have information that a huge terrorist attack will happen in the USA, and I asked him if we should tell them [the Americans]. He said “OK.”
We contacted the CIA and FBI and told them about the information, they said “Thanks.”
On August of the same year we received the information that the (operation) entered its course of implementation (is entering its final steps).
An operation like this takes time, preparations and arrangements, etc. This conversation was recorded between us and the source. I called the President and told him the information is confirmed, “Should we tell them?” He said “Tell them.” We called the people in the USA and told them that the operation entered the course of implementation. They said “OK” and “Thanks.”
Then the attack on the WTC happened. This was the operation. Do you see how cooperative we were?!?! This is why I am furious and enraged. I cooperated with them, and in return they hit my organization and destroyed (ruined) the country (Egypt)!!!
El-Adly then continued discussing how, according to him, in 2002, Mubarak questioned President Bush about the fact that the United States was warned about the impending attack but failed to act. El-Adly stated,
President Mubarak traveled to America in 2002. When there, he told President Bush, “We told you about this attack and you didn’t pay attention.” He [Bush]said “What attack?” And How?
Bush denied that they heard about that and Mubarak insisted that they did. Mubarak called me to confirm that we informed them about the information. He asked me who did I tell? I said “The CIA people.” He said “Ok” and told Bush. It seems the CIA people told Bush that they didn’t receive any news, and Mubarak told him “no, we informed you this and that.” Then they said “Oh, yes it happened but it was only told verbally.”
What Verbally?! It seems as if they wanted to receive some written memo “we received the news blah blah blah that blah blah blah would happen.”
Regardless, El-Adly’s statements corroborate what was known some time ago in terms of Egyptian knowledge of a potential terrorist attack inside the United States as well as the fact that the Egyptians passed this intelligence on to the appropriate American intelligence agencies.
The AP reported on December 7, 2001 that Mubarak claims to have been aware of an impending terrorist attack and that he warned the United States ahead of time. The AP report states,
Egypt Leader Says He Warned America BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says he warned the United States that “something would happen” 12 days before the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.
“We expected that something was going to happen and informed the Americans. We told them,” Mubarak said. He did not mention a U.S. response.
“But nobody expected the event would be of such enormity. We did not know that they would hit this target or that, and we were all surprised when planes with passengers on board hit the twin towers,” Mubarak said.
Also during the testimony, El-Adly stated that the United States was responsible for the 2011 uprising in Egypt that deposed Hosni Mubarak. He claims that the United States had a two-fold plan. The first part of the plan was to offer financial incentives to adopt the leadership model provided by the US and, if the leaders refused, to accuse them of being dictators. The second part of the plot was to mobilize the “golden youth” of these countries and use them to destabilize and overthrow the existing governments.
In essence, El-Adly revealed that the United States planned and carried out a Color Revolution in Egypt in 2011.
Specifically, El-Adly claims that the United States trained “activists” within the Kefaya and April 6 Youth Movement as well as the Muslim Brotherhood in Qatar in order to act as destabilization agents in Middle Eastern countries.
El-Adly also claims that “foreign elements” were brought in to the movements that these foreigners and initiated violence in the streets across Egypt, particularly in Suez and, eventually, Cairo. El-Adly describes security forces as showing surprising restraint throughout the entire ordeal.
El-Adly also stated that there were “moles” within the Egyptian police forces who gave weapons to “Palestinian Police” who then fired on Egyptian activists for the purposes of framing Egyptian police.
El-Adly, during a speech to a Cairo criminal court where he is being retried, said the US had two parts to its plan. The first part was to approach leaders of the Middle East with a democratic model and financial incentives to adopt that model. If the leaders of those countries refused, according to El-Adly, the US would accuse them of being dictators.
The second part of the US approach was mobilising youth in those countries and teaching them how to demand their rights, demand democracy and how to revolt against existing regimes, El-Adly added.
He added that the US trained youths in Egyptian opposition groups Kefaya and the 6 April Youth Movement, and Muslim Brotherhood youth in Qatar and other Arab countries, to “learn democracy.”
In addition, El-Adly claimed that Egyptian police had given some of their weapons to Palestinian police, who had then used these weapons to kill Egyptian protesters and frame the Egyptian police.
El-Adly described himself, as well as those prosecuted alongside him, as “national figures who have performed their duty to the fullest.
That the Egyptian 2011 uprising was nothing more than a Western-backed Color Revolution is clearly documented. As F. William Engdahl wrote for Global Research in February 2011,
The protests that led to the abrupt firing of the entire Egyptian government by President Mubarak on the heels of the panicked flight of Tunisia’s Ben Ali into a Saudi exile are not at all as “spontaneous” as the Obama White House, Clinton State Department or CNN, BBC and other major media in the West make them to be.
They are being organized in a Ukrainian-style high-tech electronic fashion with large internet-linked networks of youth tied to Mohammed ElBaradei and the banned and murky secret Muslim Brotherhood, whose links to British and American intelligence and freemasonry are widely reported.
At this point the anti-Mubarak movement looks like anything but a threat to US influence in the region, quite the opposite. It has all the footprints of another US-backed regime change along the model of the 2003-2004 Color Revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine and the failed Green Revolution against Iran’s Ahmedinejad in 2009.
Engdahl’s analysis turned out to be accurate indeed.
Still, if El-Adly’s statements regarding the foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks which were passed to the American intelligence community and subsequently ignored are true (which they appear to be based on other related information), such information coming less than a month away from the anniversary of 9/11 should serve as an incentive to continue to lobby for a real investigation of 9/11 as well as the refusal to allow the official story to remain unchallenged.
Likewise, his statement regarding the 2011 uprising should stand as yet another piece of evidence that the so-called “democracy” movements taking place across the Middle East were nothing more than Western-backed coups and destabilizations.
El-Adly’s video testimony is posted below for those who speak Arabic and would like to add to or challenge any part of the above translation.
By Nick Barrickman
13 August 2014
A report released Tuesday by Human Rights Watch details abuses and violations of international law carried out by the military junta that took power in Egypt in the July 2013 coup that ousted the elected Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi.
The report, entitled All According to Plan: The Rab’a Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt, shows that the junta, led by then-Defense Minister and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, implemented previously drawn up plans to conduct a campaign of mass repression. In the aftermath of the coup, the military regime killed thousands and imprisoned tens of thousands.
“The unprecedented violence used by Egyptian security forces… constitutes serious violations of international human rights law,” the report states, adding that “[t]he indiscriminate and deliberate use of lethal force resulted in one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history.”
In raising accusations of crimes against humanity, the authors write that the Egyptian junta engaged in “specific criminal acts committed on a widespread or systematic basis as part of an ‘attack on a civilian population,’ meaning there is some degree of planning or policy to commit the crime.” The authors make the point that in terms of sheer numbers, the killings of protesters on August 14, 2013 at Rab’a Square in Cairo exceed events such as the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989 and the Andijan Massacre that occurred in Uzbekistan in 2005.
HRW interviewed hundreds of witnesses in assembling the report. In addition, investigators visited the site of the massacres within hours of the killings on a number of occasions and reviewed hours of television footage and public statements released by officials. The investigators state that they made requests for government participation that were ignored.
The coup was the response of the US-backed Egyptian military to the revolution in 2011 that deposed the dictatorial regime of Hosni Mubarak. In June 2012, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi won the first presidential election held in Egypt in the wake of the uprising. By late June 2013, the Morsi government was facing a desperate crisis. The regime’s anti-democratic and pro-business policies had provoked mass protests even larger than those that led to the fall of Mubarak.
To preempt the emergence of an independent revolutionary movement of the Egyptian working class, the military, with the support of the US and Western imperialism as a whole, orchestrated the coup that placed al-Sisi in power. The critical political role was played by the so-called Tamarod alliance, which, with the support of the Revolutionary Socialists and other pseudo-left organizations in Egypt, called for the military to intervene against the Morsi government.
While refusing to characterize the military takeover as a coup, so as not to trigger US laws that would require the termination of economic and military aid, Washington issued hypocritical and pro forma criticisms of the murderous tactics of the al-Sisi regime and, for a short period, suspended direct military aid to Egypt.
US Secretary of State John Kerry met with al-Sisi and Foreign Minister and Mubarak-era official Sameh Shoukry last June to announce the resumption of $575 million in direct military aid and to congratulate the two on Egypt’s so-called “democratic transition.”
Last May, al-Sisi claimed the Egyptian presidency in a sham election marked by mass voter abstention, which the US and the European powers immediately declared to be legitimate.
The HRW report focuses on the events of August 14, 2013, when nearly 2,000 supporters of the Morsi government were massacred or detained by security forces in Rab’a Square in downtown Cairo. That morning, citing alleged disturbances and reports of “terrorism,” security forces sealed off all routes in or out of the thoroughfare. Minutes after issuing barely audible warnings of the impending crackdown, police and troops opened fire on the crowd with birdshot as well as live ammunition, killing hundreds, including women and children.
The report states that victims of the attack flooded nearby Rab’a hospital with wounds from live rounds, in many cases to the head or chest. One protestor is cited as stating it appeared to be “raining bullets” as he fled the crackdown.
Police snipers stationed above the entrance of the building fired on anyone attempting to enter or exit the hospital. Later in the evening, security forces seized the hospital, ordering all occupants, including doctors and nurses, to vacate, forcing them to leave the wounded and dead behind.
“As the last protesters left the square, fires broke out on the central stage, the field hospital, the mosque, and on the first floor of Rab’a hospital,” the report says, adding that “[e]vidence strongly suggests that the police deliberately started these fires.”
At the time, security officials sought to justify the killings by claiming self-defense against hostile protestors. Debunking such claims, HRW cites statements by Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, who at the time reported finding few firearms at the scene after protestors had been dispersed.
The report indicts the Egyptian government for the attacks, declaring “the most senior security officials and key leaders in the chain of command should be held individually accountable for the widespread and systematic killings of protesters.”
It singles out Ibrahim, Special Forces head Medhat Menshawy and al-Sisi himself as bearing particular responsibility, with the latter quoted as saying that “we spent very many long days to discuss all the details to arrive where the dispersal will not result in any losses.”
In fact, leading government officials expected even higher losses of life. The report refers to a televised interview in which the interior minister stated that his staff envisioned casualties as high as “10 percent of the people” in the crowd, which he calculated to be roughly 20,000.
In all, at least 1,600 people were killed or arrested in the Rab’a Square crackdown. Those who were not killed face trumped-up charges and torture at the hands of the government.
“Many of the trials reviewed by Human Rights Watch have been grossly unfair and riddled with serious due process violations, violating both Egyptian law and international standards,” the report states. It refers to the death sentences issued to over 1,200 Muslim Brotherhood officials in March and April of this year, in which defendants were denied counsel and in certain cases not even allowed to be present in the courtroom.
Flagrant violations of democratic rights have continued in Egypt throughout al-Sisi’s time in power. “The use of excessive force escalated significantly with the overthrow of Morsi in July 2013,” the report notes, citing incidents throughout the past year in which security forces have massacred protestors.
The junta has attacked freedom of the press, shutting down television stations critical of the government. It has outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist organization.” Last Sunday, an Egyptian court issued a ruling dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization.
The authors of the HRW report have been denied entry to Egypt to present their work to the government.
Investigators note that while thousands have been rounded up and sentenced by the government, not even a single low-level official has been charged for his role in the killings. On the contrary, HRW notes, in addition to the officials involved receiving salary bonuses, Rab’a Square authorities have erected a monument dedicated to the police.
The massacre at Rab’a Square came against a background of mass protests against the junta’s illegal seizure of power. The report documents at least five other incidents from July 5 to August 16, 2013 in which security forces shot and killed protestors.
Other mass killing incidents include, but are not limited to:
- The July 8 gunning down of 61 Morsi supporters at a sit-in in front of the Republican Guard headquarters in eastern Cairo.
- The July 27 killing of 95 pro-Morsi demonstrators at the Manassa Memorial located in eastern Cairo.
- The August 14 and 16 killings of protestors at al-Nahda and Ramses squares, which totaled more than 200 dead between them.
While issuing an indictment of various atrocities, the report is silent on the role of both the US and European governments. Calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council to conduct an investigation into the killings and for charges to be brought against al-Sisi and his accomplices, the report effectively whitewashes the chief conspirators in Washington and Europe.
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By Iftekhar A Khan June 12, 2014 “ICH” – The outcome of the election in Egypt hasn’t surprised anyone. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, former chief of mukhabarat (intelligence) and defence minister, has taken over as Egypt’s president. Between Hosni Mubarak’s ouster … Continue reading
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29 April 2014 A drumhead court in Egypt Monday handed down death sentences to 683 defendants—alleged members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)—after a five-minute trial in which the judge refused to allow a word uttered or a shred … Continue reading
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By Johannes Stern
28 March 2014
On Wednesday night Egyptian coup leader Field Marshall Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi officially declared his plan to run for president in upcoming elections. This is the latest effort in the US-backed junta’s carefully planned campaign to install its leader as president in order to tighten its grip over the country and brutally confront rising working class opposition.
Sisi’s televised address to the nation was a cynical mixture of nationalist phrasemongering and barely veiled threats. “I am here before you humbly stating my intention to run for the presidency of the Arab Republic of Egypt,” Sisi declared. “Only your support will grant me this great honor.” After announcing his nominal resignation from the military, he added that he considered himself “a soldier serving my country in any capacity desired by Egyptians.”
Sisi’s claim that he will act in the interests of the Egyptian people is a grotesque lie. Only a few days ago Egyptian Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour compared Sisi to the former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, demanding that “this country as it stands today needs a strongman that can pull it together… Law and order is good toward investment and toward the economy.”
As with Pinochet, Sisi is a US-backed dictator prepared to use fascistic methods to suppress the working class at the behest of its imperialist patrons and international finance capital.
In his speech, Sisi threatened the impoverished Egyptian masses with austerity and suffering. He warned: “I cannot make miracles. Rather, I propose hard work and self-denial,” in order to “restore” Egypt.
Sisi cynically sought to wrap his declaration of war against the working class in the mantle of democracy. “My determination to run in the elections does not bar others from their right to run. I will be happy if whoever the people choose succeeds,” he declared, adding that he hopes for “a nation for all without exclusion.”
This is coming from a man who has overseen bloody massacres and large-scale repression over the past several months. Since the July 3, 2013 coup, the military junta under Sisi’s leadership has violently dispersed countless sit-ins, demonstrations and strikes, killing at least 1,400 people and jailing more than 16,000. It has banned the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Egypt’s main bourgeois opposition party, issued an anti-protest law and enshrined continued military rule in the constitution.
On Monday, an Egyptian court, in an act of political mass murder, sentenced 529 MB supporters to death. Further show trials are prepared. Only hours before Sisi’s speech, Egypt’s public prosecutor ordered another 919 MB members—including the MB’s Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie, and the leader of its political arm, Saad al-Katatni—to stand trial on charges including murder and terrorism.
While the junta is intensifying its campaign of terror, intimidation and outright political murder, the imperialist powers have combined pro forma criticism of the death sentences—European Council President Herman van Rompuy declared after meeting US President Barack Obama in Brussels on Wednesday that the US and the EU were “appalled” by the sentences—with declarations of support to install a mass murderer as president.
With consummate cynicism, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement. “As the election process moves forward we urge the Egyptian authorities to ensure that the elections are free, fair, and transparent; that all candidates are able to campaign freely, without fear of harassment or intimidation; and that the views of all the Egyptian people are fully represented.”
The Egyptian newspaper Ahram Online quoted an “European ambassador” as saying: “He [Sisi] has a very calculating mind and I am not surprised he took such a long time—although it was rather too long—to make his announcement.”
Sisi’s run for presidency exposes the fraud of the alleged “democratic transition” promoted by the imperialist powers, the military junta and the official political parties in Egypt alike.
More than three years after the revolutionary ouster of long-time dictator and US-stooge Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian ruling elite and its imperialist backers are moving to install an even more direct brutal dictatorship to put an end to all strikes and protests.
Sisi’s speech comes amidst a deepening social crisis and a renewed explosion of working class struggles. According to Democracy Meter, an Egyptian research center, the number of strikes and protests in Egypt reached a record 1,044 in February. On Tuesday the Egyptian online newspaper Mada Masr wrote that “despite official attempts to bring an end to a wave of labor unrest… a broad range of Egypt’s labor workforce embarked on nationwide strikes on Tuesday.” It reported: “Doctors, dentists, pharmacists, postal workers, textile workers, custodial staff and others all staged walkouts during the day.”
The junta is preparing to confront the working class with brutal terror. According to reports, police forces arrested strike leaders of the 50,000-member postal workers strike in dawn raids on Tuesday in Egypt’s second largest city Alexandria. The postal chief has reportedly claimed that the workers are affiliated to the MB, which was denied by family members. During the past two days, security forces brutally cracked down on students in Cairo protesting the death sentences for MB members. At least one student was killed.
The junta’s violent attempts to crush all opposition to its rule highlight the counterrevolutionary character of the liberal and “left” political organizations of Egypt’s affluent middle class. Organizations such as the National Salvation Front (NSF) and Tamarod—and their pseudo-left supporters, most prominently the misnamed Revolutionary Socialists (RS) group—played a key role in channeling the mass protests against Mohammed Mursi behind the military.
Now most of these groups are directly supporting Sisi’s presidency. The Tamarod movement gave its full-fledged support to Sisi. In a statement published on Wednesday it claimed that “our choice for a figure like the marshal [Sisi] is representative of a big section of the Egyptian people.”
Nasserite politician Hamdeen Sabahi, a leader of the NSF and the Karama Party, and so far the only other presidential candidate, praised Sisi’s candidacy in a tweet. “I welcome Sisi’s candidacy, and we seek … democratic elections that [are] transparent and guarantee neutrality of the nation and the will of the people to choose their president freely.”
The liberal Constitution Party, formerly led by Mohammad ElBaradei, also hinted its support, declaring that “Sisi has the right to enter the race as civilian citizen after resigning from his military position.”
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26 March 2014
Monday’s death sentence handed down by a kangaroo court in Egypt to 529 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) marks a new stage in the military junta’s brutal efforts to terrorize and intimidate popular opposition.
The trial in the southern city of Minya was a travesty. Most of the accused were not present. The judge, a bloodthirsty lackey of the military, screamed insults at the few defendants who were allowed in the courtroom. Defense lawyers were barred from the court. The filthy proceedings lasted less than two days, and ended with more than 500 defendants being condemned to the gallows for the killing of one policeman.
The trial was staged for the sole purpose of providing a pseudo-legal cover for the state murder of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main political opposition to the military dictatorship.
With consummate cynicism, the United States and the European Union combined a perfunctory criticism of the death sentences with a declaration of support for the regime of mass murderers. Their “deep concern” and “shock” would not be permitted to undermine the “important relationship” with the junta. The European Union described “the death penalty” as “cruel and inhuman”, called upon “the Egyptian interim authorities” to apply “international standards” and stressed: “This is particularly important for the credibility of Egypt’s transition towards democracy.”
The junta has murdered thousands and is about to hang hundreds of its opponents, and the European Union has the gall to still talk about Egypt’s “transition towards democracy.”
Not wishing to be outdone, the US State Department, in a declaration that might have been penned by a master of black comedy, called upon “all parties and groups in Egypt to make sure that as their democratic transition moves forward, it’s done so in an inclusive manner.” The 529 condemned must await further instructions from Secretary of State John Kerry as to how they should “move forward” to democracy as they stand on the gallows with their hands tied and ropes around their necks.
The military would not have dared hand down the death sentences were it not confident that it is acting with the support of the Obama administration. Field Marshall Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is nothing other than a modern Egyptian version of the late Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet. Like the former Chilean dictator, al-Sisi came to power in a US-backed military coup and has the support of the imperialist powers in erecting a fascistic military dictatorship and declaring war against the working class.
Following the US-backed 1973 coup against the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, Pinochet—with the help of death squads, concentration camps and torture chambers—turned Chile into a bloody playground for international finance capital. Supported by the CIA and various US governments, Pinochet’s junta carried out killings and disappearances of political opponents, pushed through low wages and high interest rates and exploited a workforce at gun-point to generate maximum profits for a tiny ruling elite.
As in Chile, the Egyptian junta’s barbaric methods serve the interests of its imperialist patrons. The US and European governments supported the July 3, 2013 military coup and the junta’s subsequent repression of countless sit-ins, demonstrations and strikes. Since the coup—carried out amidst mass protests against Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi—the junta has banned the MB, killed and jailed thousands of its supporters, issued an anti-protest law and enshrined its privileges in a new constitution.
With the backing of Washington and Brussels, the Egyptian military junta is seeking to extend its reign of terror to the entire working class and violently crush all strikes and protests at the behest of international finance capital.
This program was clearly spelled out by Egyptian Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour. In a recent Reuters article titled “Egypt investors believe Sisi presidency will bring stability” he is quoted as saying:
“In the West, a candidacy and maybe the election of an army officer or an ex-officer to the presidency of a developing, third world country would raise eyebrows and call to mind the image of a Pinochet rather than a George Washington… a dictator rather than a reformer. [But] this country as it stands today needs a strongman that can pull it together… Law and order is good toward investment and toward the economy.”
International banks and investors have long been calling for Sisi’s installation as president. “I think most investors would say it doesn’t appear all that democratic, but it’s more stable, so my investment will be safer,” said Gabriel Sterne of Exotix, a London-based frontier market bank active in Egypt. A report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch last month described a potential Sisi presidency as “market-friendly in the near term”, and demanded a “crucial” loan from the International Monetary Fund.
Earlier this month, Sisi threatened years of austerity and suffering to the Egyptian working class: “Our economic circumstances, in all sincerity and with all understanding, are very, very difficult… Possibly one or two generations will [have to suffer] so that the remaining generations live.”
The escalation by the junta of its counter-revolutionary attempts to violently crush any opposition to its rule comes amidst growing signs of social conflict and a renewed explosion of working-class struggles. On Monday, Democracy Meter, an Egyptian research center, reported that the number of strikes and protests in Egypt reached 1,044 in February, including doctors, textile workers, public servants, bus drivers and other sections of the working class.
According to media reports, five leaders of the postal workers strike in the coastal town of Alexandria were arrested from their homes in dawn raids on Tuesday. On the same day, Sisi praised a newly formed “anti-terror unit,” threatening that the army is capable of “doing the impossible.” According to the Egyptian Daily Al-Mary Al-Youm, he declared that, “maximum effort has to be exerted to confront threats and challenges of the homeland’s national security.”
The death sentences and the junta’s preparations for an ever more direct fascistic dictatorship are a warning. It confirms that the ruling elite will stop at nothing and is ready to defend its class interests with the bloodiest measures against any challenge by the working class.
The International Committee of the Fourth International calls on the working class in all parts of the world to come to the defense of the condemned prisoners and the beleaguered Egyptian working class. Protests and demonstrations should be organized denouncing the imperialist-backed junta and demanding the annulment of the death sentences and the release of all the defendants.
By Johannes Stern
25 March 2014
Yesterday an Egyptian court sentenced 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to death. The biggest mass death sentence in recent history marks another escalation in the ruthless efforts of the US-backed military junta in Egypt to annihilate its political opponents and drown the Egyptian revolution in blood.
Since the July 3, 2013 coup—carried out amidst mass protests against MB President Mohamed Mursi—the military junta has violently attacked sit-ins, demonstrations and strikes, killing at least 1,400 people and jailing more than 16,000. It has banned the MB, Egypt’s largest Islamist organization, issued an anti-protest law and pushed through a constitution enshrining the army’s dominant role in society.
Most of the defendants were arrested during anti-coup protests in the Minya governorate that erupted after the brutal dispersal of two pro-Mursi sit-ins in Cairo by security and army forces on August 14. The charges against the group on trial included murder, attempted murder, attacking a police station and damaging public and private property. Out of 545 defendants, only 150 were present at court, while all others were tried in absentia.
The whole trial was a farce and bore the character of a show trial.
“This is the quickest case and the number sentenced to death is the largest in the history of the judiciary,” said lawyer Nabil Abdel Salam, who defends leading MB members including Mursi himself. Defense lawyer Khaled el-Koumi told the Associated Press: “We didn’t have a chance to say a word, to look at more than 3,000 pages of investigation and to see what evidence they are talking about.”
Presiding judge Said Youssef reportedly started shouting and ordered in court security when defence lawyers protested against the proceedings. Some lawyers said they were barred from entering the courthouse entirely.
Walid, a relative of one of the sentenced, told Reuters: “When the trial starts on Saturday and it is just a procedural hearing, and the judge doesn’t listen to any lawyers or witnesses and doesn’t even call the defendants, you are before a group of thugs and not the judiciary.”
Dramatic scenes unfolded after the verdict. Family members started screaming in despair, and angry protesters set fire to a nearby building, Egyptian state TV reported.
Today another mass trial will begin, with another 683 people facing similar charges. Amongst the defendants are the MB’s Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie, and the leader of its political arm, Saad al-Katatni.
The US government and its imperialist allies in Europe responded with empty and thoroughly hypocritical statements. Marie Harf, the deputy US State Department spokeswoman, expressed “deep concern” and “shock” over “the sentencing to death of 529 Egyptians related to the death of one policemen.” At the same time she made clear that Washington’s support for the junta would continue. She stressed that the White House regards its links with Cairo as an “important relationship”, and there was no desire to “completely cut off” relations.
The EU’s High Representative Catherine Ashton reminded the Egyptian junta that the “the death penalty is cruel and inhuman” and called upon “the Egyptian interim authorities to apply “international standards”. She stressed: “This is particularly important for the credibility of Egypt’s transition towards democracy.”
As the military junta is employing the most barbaric and undemocratic methods, Washington and Brussels continue to present it as a struggle for “democracy”.
The verdict comes amidst preparations by the military junta to install coup leader and Defence Minister Field Marshall Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi as new president. The de facto dictator has overseen the mass killings and jailings in the past months and is now preparing for a direct confrontation with the working class, the main target of state repression and of the military coup itself.
Speaking at a conference of young doctors earlier this month, Sisi threatened years of austerity and suffering: “Our economic circumstances, in all sincerity and with all understanding, are very, very difficult. I wonder, did anyone say that I will walk for a little bit to help my country? The country will not make progress by using words. It will make progress by working, and through perseverance, impartiality and altruism. Possibly one or two generations will [have to suffer] so that the remaining generations live.”
There are growing signs of social conflict and working-class struggle. Egypt’s new Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb was installed at the end of last month amidst a massive strike by tens of thousands of textile workers and public bus drivers. He called on the “patriotism” of Egyptian workers, stressing that it was time for work and not for strikes. He warned that “making demands that exceed logic will destroy the country” and declared: “Security and stability in the entire country and crushing terrorism will pave the way for investment.”
The military reign of terror and its preparation for violence against all strikes and protests at the behest of international finance capital underscore the counterrevolutionary role of the liberal and pseudo-left organizations that backed the military coup.
Chief among these was the so-called Revolutionary Socialists (RS), which has worked, since the initial eruption of mass struggles in January 2011, to subordinate the protests to one or another faction of the bourgeoisie. After first encouraging illusions in the military regime established after the ouster of US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak, the RS then promoted Mursi and the MB as the “right wing of the revolution.”
During the 2013 protests, the RS enthusiastically backed the Tamarod movement, which included the National Salvation Front of liberal leaders Mohamed El Baradei, sections of the Egyptian ruling class and former members of the Mubarak regime. Tamarod played the key role in channeling mass opposition behind the military.
Tamarod is now fueling the junta’s violent nationalistic and anti-working class campaign and supporting the installation of al-Sisi as president. Tamarod leader Mahmoud Badr recently declared that Tamarod “completely supports Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as president of Egypt”, and called upon “all Egyptians” to support him “as a national and popular agreed-upon candidate.”
For their part, the trade unions are the most unabashed supporters of the junta’s nationalistic campaign. Gebaly al-Maraghy, the president of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation was merely echoing the junta’s program for a massive confrontation with the working class when he declared: “Our battle is to increase production and combat terrorism. If we don’t win, the whole of Egypt will be destroyed.”
By Alex Lantier
16 January 2014
The January 14-15 referendum conducted by Egypt’s US-backed military junta on its draft constitution was a political fraud. Its aim was to provide a pseudo-legal cover for the junta’s bloody July 3, 2013 coup, carried out amid mass working class protests against Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.
Voter turnout for the referendum was low. The military carried out a massive security operation for the vote, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of police and soldiers to intimidate “no” voters and crush protests by supporters of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
The junta’s own minister of state for administrative development, Hany Mahmoud, said Tuesday that only 28 percent of voters had cast ballots at 40 polling stations specially chosen by the junta. Initial reports suggested that even fewer voters went to the polls yesterday.
An air of terror and intimidation hung over the referendum—a counterrevolutionary initiative the junta is using to restore the type of authoritarian regime that existed before a mass working class uprising toppled US-backed dictator President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
Army detachments and low-flying Apache attack helicopters patrolled polling stations, with troops pressing arriving voters to vote “yes.” Police were deployed on the inside of the polling stations, in line with orders issued by Major General Tawfik Abdel-Samei.
From a polling station at a stadium in Nasr City, the BBC wrote: “Outside the polling station, a group of voters and military enthusiasts wave pictures of the Armed Forces chief, General [Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi. Vendors sell posters of the general, and a white police jeep plays military songs. The security forces openly encourage a ‘Yes’ vote, which is seen as the same thing as a vote for General Sisi. ‘Sisi! Sisi!’ chanted one officer carrying a walkie-talkie… Anyone in favor of a ‘No’ vote is staying well away.”
Security forces killed 11 people nationwide during the referendum, including a 14-year-old boy gunned down Tuesday in a clash between police and MB supporters in the Upper Egyptian city of Sohag.
Yesterday, MB protesters disrupted traffic on the Cairo subway, organized human chains, and clashed with police in several cities, including Alexandria.
The junta, which last summer crushed MB protests against the coup in a series of bloody crackdowns that killed over 1,000 people and wounded thousands, remains terrified of renewed protests or a mass uprising. Security forces were placed on high alert again yesterday evening amid reports that protesters were heading to Tahrir Square.
The draft constitution issued by the junta is a reactionary document, enshrining the army as a state within the state and giving it broad powers to crush opposition. Article 203 specifies that the National Defense Council, a body dominated by the army and intelligence chiefs, controls the armed forces’ budget and decides national security issues. Article 204 states that civilians can face trials in military courts for acting against the army, its equipment, any of the many factories or installations it owns, its military secrets, or public funds.
The constitutional referendum was applauded by the Egyptian army and its imperialist backers in the United States and Europe.
Perhaps the clearest indication of the counterrevolutionary character of the referendum was its open endorsement by the former dictator, Hosni Mubarak. From his bed in the military hospital in Maadi, Mubarak issued a call via his lawyer, Fareed El-Deeb, for Egyptians to approve the junta’s constitution.
“This is the president’s wish, in order to achieve our hope of building a new state,” El-Deeb told privately-owned Al-Mehwer TV.
El-Sisi—who is expected to run for president, so that the head of state would again be an army officer, like Mubarak—called for the success of the referendum as part of his presidential bid. In a meeting on Saturday, he appealed for a large turnout “so as not to embarrass the army before the entire world.”
“If I nominate myself, there must be a popular demand, and a mandate from my army,” he said.
Washington made clear its support for the junta and its repression by including a $1.525 billion aid package for the Egyptian army in the budget passed by the US Congress on the first day of Egypt’s constitutional referendum.
According to an analysis by the Atlantic Council, the budget measure exempts Egypt from US laws barring US financial aid for military dictatorships such as Egypt. In order for Washington to pay the funds to Cairo, it would need to certify only that the junta was following its own “road map for a democratic transition,” of which the constitution is a part.
The European Union (EU) praised the junta’s counterrevolutionary referendum, in Orwellian fashion, as the dawn of a new era of democracy.
EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said: “The constitutional process—both before and following the referendum—could offer a chance for a new political dialog and interaction leading to democratic elections, a fair representation of different political views in the future parliament, accountability for the government and state institutions, and greater security and prosperity for all.”
The anti-democratic character of the draft constitution and the referendum highlights the reactionary role played by the liberal and “left” political organizations of Egypt’s affluent middle class. Fearing a revolution by the working class, organizations such as the National Salvation Front (NSF) and Tamarod, and their pseudo-left supporters, including the misnamed Revolutionary Socialists (RS) group, channeled mass working class protests against Mursi behind the army.
Now they are either directly supporting the junta’s attempts to turn the clock back to the Mubarak era or making toothless oppositional gestures.
The NSF, a coalition of liberal and Nasserite parties, applauded the junta’s constitutional referendum. After denouncing Mursi’s MB as “the dumbest political organization in history,” Ahmed Fawzy of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party enthused: “The national charter will be endorsed no matter what they do.”
Sherif Taher of the NSF’s Wafd Party told Al Ahram that he wanted as large as possible a turnout in the referendum to try to give the junta more legitimacy.
“What really matters now is that we see a high turnout,” he said. “I am afraid the media keeps saying the numbers are huge, which could make other people not bother to cast their ballots… If, for instance, the turnout does not exceed 30 percent, that would mean the public has more or less rejected the referendum.”
By Roger Annis
The military-dominated regime that seized power in Egypt in July 2013 has escalated its attacks on freedom and democracy in the country. A series of pronouncements were issued in late December, including the banning of the country’s largest political movement – the Muslim Brotherhood. By all evidence, Egypt’s economic and military elite are taking the country back to the darkest days of the rule of former dictator Hosni Mubarak or even farther into the abyss.
The regime’s new measures have been accompanied by regressive court decisions and assaults on protesting citizens by police and soldiers backed by plainclothes thugs. A harrowing prospect threatens the country – that of a violent war by the regime and its backers against the population, similar to the bloody war that was waged by Algeria’s government and military against the people of that country during the 1990s and 2000s.
Protest in Beni Suweif, south of Egypt, December 27, 2013, source Facebook page ECCD.
Courageous protests by growing sections of Egyptian society are blocking the road of civil war that the regime seems hell-bent on taking. Civilian protest and organizing offer hope that the country can return to a path of democracy and social justice that opened with the overthrow of Mubarak in February 2011.
In its most draconian political measure yet, on December 25, the regime announced a banning of the Muslim Brotherhood. The ban will be applied against the Brotherhood-led political party, the Freedom and Justice Party. The two are being proscribed as “terrorist” organizations.
Membership in the organizations is grounds for harsh punishment. Members are banned from travel abroad. “Terrorism” charges will apply to anyone who finances or promotes the two organizations “verbally and in writing.”
Hundreds of Brotherhood and FJP members have been arrested. The personal assets of many leaders have been seized by authorities, including those of the imprisoned Mohamed Morsi. He won the presidential election in Egypt in June 2012 on behalf of the Freedom and Justice Party. He was overthrown by the military on July 3, 2013. The coup unleashed a terrible wave of violence by the military regime that took power.
Publication of the Muslim Brotherhood’s newspaper, Freedom and Justice, has been outlawed. Egypt’s Interior Ministry has opened three telephone lines for citizens to snitch on their fellow citizens.
The government is preparing to seize schools operated by the movement and it says it will take over operations of Brotherhood-run hospitals and health centers. The regime also says it will take over all mosques belonging to banned organizations and replace their imams.
Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif told state television that henceforth anyone taking part in protests organized by the two mass organizations will be jailed for lengthy terms, up to life imprisonment. And “the sentence could be death” for those who lead the Muslim Brotherhood.
Morsi has been imprisoned since July 3 and faces serious criminal charges. His show trial had abrief, opening session November 4 and is due to resume this month.
Pretext Holds No Water
A long list of pretexts was read out by regime Prime Minister Hazem El Beblawi on December 25 to justify the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood. These included an accusation that the group was behind the assassination of then-Prime Minister Mahmoud Nuqrashi more than 60 years ago.
The key accusation was responsibility for the bombing of a police station in the city of Mansoura on December 24. The bomb killed 16 and wounded more than 100. Mansoura is a city of half a million people 110 kilometers north of Cairo in the Nile River delta.
The police station also served as a jail. At the time of the bombing, it held dozens of prisoners detained for protesting the coup regime. Some of the prisoners were women.
Egyptian officials have provided no evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood was linked to the bombing. The organization condemned the bombing and has called for its perpetrators to be brought to justice.
Human Rights Watch has condemned the banning of the Brotherhood and the pretext for doing so. It said the banning was politically driven. A statement said, “The government blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the [December 24] blast without investigating or providing any evidence.”
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch, said in the statement, “The government’s decision on the Muslim Brotherhood follows over five months of government efforts to vilify the group. By rushing to point the finger at the Brotherhood without investigations or evidence, the government seems motivated solely by its desire to crush a major opposition movement.”
Seven people were arrested January 2 for the bombing. The regime has provided no evidence that any are members of the Brotherhood or were acting under its direction.
The Human Rights Watch statement also reports that on December 23, Egypt’s Central Bank froze the bank accounts of more than 1,000 NGOs reportedly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. Many of these organizations are essential providers of health care and education services.
Five days earlier, police stormed the office of the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights and assaulted and arrested six people – a staff researcher, staff lawyer and four volunteers. Equipment was broken, and computers were stolen. A statement of protest against the raid was issued the following day by 25 Egyptian organizations (here).
One of the complicating factors for the regime is the fact that it has no legal definition of “terrorism” with which it can charge or convict its opponents.
Attacks on Protests
The proscriptions by the coup regime follow months of low-intensity war in the streets of the country against opponents of the July coup. Half a year on, the generals have failed to establish the “order” and “normalcy” they promised. The price of protesting is high, and many have been killed or injured, but the protests continue.
Street protests, general strikes in neighborhoods and cities, massive student actions, some strikes by workers and many other forms of struggle have weakened the regime.
The regime has struck out fiercely. While there has been no repeat of the terrible massacres that marked July and August 2013, including the very worst at the Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Mosque on August 14, killings by regime thugs as well as arrests and beatings have continued. The scale of the repression has far outstripped the rights violations committed during the declining years of the Mubarak regime.
A new regime weapon is a special law against the right to protest adopted in November. A first, major test of that law concluded December 22 with the conviction of three activists of the April 6 Youth Movement – Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel. They are well-known symbols of the democracy movement. It arose in 2010 and played a key role in the overthrow of the Mubarak dictatorship.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the Anti-Coup Pro-Legitimacy National Alliance have issued a statement condemning the conviction of the three young activists. The alliance is the broad coalition that has spearheaded the ongoing protest movement against the military regime.
A broad coalition of human rights groups in Egypt issued a statement in November condemning the anti-protest law.
Ahmed Maher, a founder of the April 6 movement, lashed out at Egypt’s National Council of Human Rights in a note smuggled out of prison December 18. His note harshly criticized members of the Council.
Maher charged that some members of the council were “agents for the state who used to report about activists to security before the revolution.” He wrote further, “There is no difference between this council and Mubarak’s mock councils.”
The Middle East Monitor has broadcast and transcribed into English an interview with Maher in which the activist reflects very critically on the Tamarod movement, in which the April 6 Movement participated. He says it was a mistake to take part in the mass demonstration June 30, 2013, that called for the removal of Morsi. That action was understood by his movement to be a call for “correction” of the course of the Morsi government, not its overthrow by the military. “We do not deny that Morsi did wrong. … But what is happening now is seriously a return to the old regime. … ”
“Everything we rose against in the January 25 revolution is back and is even worse than before.” The interview is undated.
The MENA Solidarity Network is reporting that six activists in Alexandria, including two members of the Revolutionary Socialists, have just been sentenced to two years of hard labor and fines for contesting the same law.
Three other activists are facing convictions for political accusations dating back to 2012 in a case being followed closely by Amnesty International. One of them, Ahmed Abdallah, was also a prominent member of the April 6 Youth Movement.
Students Particularly Targeted
Students have waged especially courageous and sustained protests against the coup regime. Breaking with past precedent, the regime repeatedly has invaded campuses with its repressive forces. But students are continuing their resistance.
Campuses across the country once again were rocked by protest December 27, this time against the decision to ban the Muslim Brotherhood. Students joined a national day of protest that day called by the Anti-Coup Alliance.
The regime lashed out, killing some 19 people that day, including three students. Women students at Al-Azhar University in Cairo came under attack by pro-regime thugs (see a short video here). Some university buildings in Cairo were torched.
In response to the attack at Al-Azhar, the group Students Against the Coup organized a march to the campus the following day. Madr Masa reports that they protested at entrances to the university against the holding of exams in the violent climate created by the regime. Once again, police and thugs attacked. Some 60 students were arrested.
Youssof Salhen, 21, spokesperson for Students Against the Coup, told the UK Observer that 14 of those arrested on Saturday were women. He said, “We are not going to stop [protesting] until we achieve justice for those who have died and those who have been jailed.
“The security forces and the coup forces will continue to try to frighten students for trying to exercise their rights to peaceful protest, but we will continue.”
Crackdown on Journalists
Press freedom is under heavy attack. Journalists at the banned newspaper of the Freedom and Justice Party have taken their campaign to reopen the newspaper to the Press Syndicate, the union of journalists in Egypt. The Syndicate has opposed the banning, saying that the FJP is a legitimate political party that cannot be banned on a whim.
Also condemning the newspaper banning is the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression. It says the measure is a “blatant assault on freedom of expression.”
Four journalists of Al Jazeera’s English broadcast were arrested at the news agency’s office in a hotel in Cairo on the night of December 29. One was later released. Three are charged with belonging to a terrorist organization, including bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and veteran correspondent Peter Greste. Fahmy is a Canadian citizen, and his detention was reported in theToronto Star on January 7 by the Cairo-based journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous. Greste is Australian.
The Arab Network For Human Rights Information (ANHRI), a Cairo-based human rights watchdog, has condemned the Egyptian regime for the Al Jazeera arrests and for “ongoing use of gag policy.” Press freedom organizations internationally also have called for the release of the three.
Two other Al Jazeera journalists, Abdulla al-Shami and Mohamed Badr, have been held without charge for more than five months.
The regime is revising Egypt’s post-Mubarak constitution that was approved in a referendum in December 2012. They will put the revised document to a referendum January 14-15. Among many regressive measures in it, the revised document will remove civilian oversight of the military, require that the defense minister be a military officer, and fully restore trials of civilians by military courts.
The Freedom and Justice Party and the Anti-Coup Alliance have announced they will boycott the constitution referendum. So, too, will the April 6 Youth Movement and other political parties and social movements. (For a detailed look at the proposed constitution, see this analysis by FIDH.)
Human rights organizations and a broad cross-section of Egyptian society have long demanded an end to military trials of civilians.
Peaceful but Uncompromising Resistance
The Anti-Coup Alliance has, from the outset, affirmed that it will wage peaceful but unrelenting opposition to the regime. It rejects armed resistance. Anti-coup resistance is growing as social and economic conditions deteriorate and the regime demonstrates that it is utterly bereft of plans to move the country forward. It has only violence and dictatorship to offer.
The sustained civil protests have encouraged growing sections of the population to see through the phony claim by Egypt’s elite and sections of the country’s middle class that the coup represented some kind of “salvation” for the nation from Islam-inspired political movements.
Egyptians hope and quite reasonably expect that world opinion will support their struggle for democracy. But the big powers of the world are playing coy, quietly backing the regime while at the same time keeping some distance to avoid being tainted with the worst of its abuses.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced December 24 that he was “seriously concerned” about the deteriorating human rights situation. He has made no announcement about the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood and related measures.
The US State Department stated a “concerned” posture at a news briefing December 30. Canada has said nothing.
Back in August in an online story in the Ottawa Citizen that has since been removed from the newspaper site, minister of foreign affairs John Baird spoke about the July coup to reporters while visiting a Coptic church in Ottawa. He said, “The former president became autocratic and did not want to build a peaceful, inclusive society.”
He went on, “We’re certainly not calling for them to be restored to power.” (See a report on Baird’s statement by the present author included here in an August 2013 news posting.)
Canada’s statements on Egypt have been limited to cautionary calls upon unnamed agencies in Egypt to cease “violence.” At the time of the July coup against the elected president and government, Baird smoothly stated, “Canada urges all parties in Egypt to remain calm, avoid violence and engage in meaningful political dialogue.”
Leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood are seeking to convince the International Criminal Court in The Hague to prefer charges of crimes against humanity against the coup regime.
The big powers’ aloofness to the ongoing assaults on people and democracy is a sharp contrast to the hailing of the “Tamarod” movement in the spring and summer of 2013. The quite legitimate grievances of many participants in that movement against the government of President Morsi were cynically manipulated to help set the stage for the coup.
Sara Khorshid, an Egyptian journalist, recently penned a commentary in The New York Times aboutEgypt’s counter-revolution. She writes about the illusions of her fellow citizens in believing that the July 2013 coup and army rule could bring improvement to the country. Her views are also a useful reminder to those actors outside Egypt whose dislike of a Muslim Brotherhood-led government clouded their political judgment and their defense of democratic rights for all.
Khorshid concludes her commentary, “Ultimately, those who saw the military as a better alternative to the Brotherhood will realize the magnitude of injustice that the military’s wide-ranging authorities could bring to all aspects of Egyptian life.”
The MENA Solidarity Network is urging concerned people to sign a petition it has initiated against the anti-protest law in Egypt. The petition is here. You can also download a print version to circulate. The names of signatories will be delivered to the Egyptian Embassy in the UK on January 25, 2014.
The Egyptian-Canadian Coalition for Democracy is holding activities across Canada to build solidarity with the Egyptian people. Read about its work on its web site, eccd-cecd.ca. The coalition is a co-founder of the recently launched Egyptians Worldwide for Democracy and Justice. Read its founding statement here. •
Roger Annis is a writer in Vancouver BC. He publishes a website featuring his writings and those of others at A Socialist in Canada.
By Karen Piper
“Welcome to the Greener Side of Life” beckoned the billboard on Cairo’s Ring Road, which showed a man in a jaunty hat teeing off on a verdant golf course flowing into the horizon. I was stuck in traffic, breathing that mix of Saharan dust and pollution also known as “air,” so I could see the appeal. Somewhere outside the city, in a gated community called Allegria — Italian for “cheerfulness” — a greener life awaited.
“Over 80% of Allegria’s land is dedicated to green and public spaces,” boasts the developer’s brochure, “meaning you’ll never lose the peace and tranquility which goes hand in hand with outdoor living.”
Top: Promotional image for Allegria, a gated community in Sheikh Zayed City, a suburb of Cairo, Egypt. [Image by SODIC] Bottom: Neighborhood in Cairo. [Photo by Brandon Atkinson]
It was a scorching hot summer, several months before the Egyptian revolution. Beneath the expressway sprawled the informal settlements where an estimated 60 percent of metropolitan Cairo’s 18 million residents live.  Some were using billboard poles to keep the brick structures from collapsing. Many did not have running water, and those who did found the taps drying up as water was diverted to the lavishly landscaped suburban developments with names like Allegria, Dreamland, Beverly Hills, Swan Lake, Utopia — a diversion that was straining the capacity of state-run water distribution networks and waste treatment plants. 
When Tahrir Square erupted in the winter of 2011, the international news media proclaimed a “social media revolution” spurred by pro-democracy Egyptians seeking to overthrow the repressive regime of President Hosni Mubarak.  To a large extent unreported was the fact that the country was also in a water crisis, having dropped below the globally recognized “water poverty” line of 1,000 cubic meters per person per year, down to 700 cubic meters per person.  It is no exaggeration to say that the January 25 Revolution was not just a revolution of the disenfranchised; it was also what some have called a “Revolution of the Thirsty.”  In a land almost without rain, the Nile River supplies 97 percent of renewable water resources, and these days an increasing share of that water is being directed to the posh suburban compounds — where many of Egypt’s political elite lives — to support that “greener side of life.” Meanwhile, in the years before the revolution, the state water utilities had dramatically hiked rates for residents in downtown Cairo, where some 40 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day. 
Later that year, back home in the Midwest, as images of the uprising filled my television screen, I was surprised that commentators seemed unaware of the water crisis, and of the global geopolitical pressures that had made the crisis all but certain. The American media focused mainly on internal corruption and oppression. They did not report on the role of the international superpowers in influencing the Mubarak regime to privatize the country’s public land and water; they did not report, for instance, that since the 1990s the World Bank has argued that privatization enhances “efficiency” and has mandated the policy as a condition for making loans; and that in 2004 this mandate led the Egyptian government to privatize its water utilities, transforming them into corporations which were required to operate at a profit, and which thus began to practice “full cost recovery,” passing along the cost of new infrastructure through rate increases. 
Within months of privatization, the price of water doubled in some areas of the capital, and citizens started to protest. At one demonstration in northern Cairo, in 2005, “angry residents chased bill collectors down the streets.”  Those who could not afford the new rates had little choice but to go to the city’s outskirts to collect water from the dirty Nile River canals.  In 2007, protestors in the Nile Delta blocked the main coastal road after the regional water company diverted water from farming and fishing towns to affluent resort communities. “The authorities sent riot police to put down these ‘disturbances,’” wrote Philip Marfleet, a professor at the University of East London, even as “water flowed uninterrupted to the gated communities, and to country clubs and upmarket resorts of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.”  In the next few years such demonstrations only grew in intensity. As activist Abdel Mawla Ismail has noted, “Thirst protests or intifadas, as some people have called them, started to represent a new path for a social movement.” From this path the revolution that consumed the nation in 2011 seems inevitable. People can live in poverty for a long time; they cannot live without water.
Cairo (center) and the Nile River Valley. [Satellite image by NASA]
To understand the growing inequity of water access in Egypt, let’s return again to the “Greener Side of Life.” Established in 2007, Allegria is one of dozens of gated suburbs that have sprouted in the Sahara in the past decade. Created by the Sixth of October Development and Investment Company (SODIC) — the name recalls a victorious battle in the Yom Kippur War — Allegria is a cosmopolitan community organized around golf and swimming. It boasts a “happier and healthier lifestyle” and proudly advertises a Greg Norman Signature golf course with 18 holes and “views of the Great Pyramids of Giza.” Prospective buyers can choose among 30 villa plans, all designed by a renowned international architect. Each villa or apartment complex has its own private pool and gardens. Four corporations manage upkeep of the landscape alone.
Golf is not a new sport in Egypt — it was introduced in 1882, when the British colonial rulers built the Gezira Sporting Club — but it has gained wide popularity only in the last decade as developers began to promote the “golf holiday” to foreign tourists. Since then it has swept the Saharan suburbs, becoming a status symbol signifying the ability to conduct business anywhere in the world as long as there’s a good fairway. In Egypt, learning to golf is now seen as a necessary step toward joining the global elite. Allegria capitalizes on the mystique, offering workshops and posting daily golf quizzes on its Facebook page. It hosts endless golf tournaments and themed parties, like “Allegria Basil Ladies Day,” where, for around $150, women receive a welcoming basil drink, an “Italian Basil Menu” lunch, and a round of golf enhanced with “basil-scented face towels.” At the annual BMW tournament, new cars are displayed around the fairways and available for test drives.
As in many far-flung exurbs, life in Allegria is necessarily self-contained. Women are encouraged to walk to the upscale shopping and restaurants in the private city of Westown (also owned by SODIC) or take the free shuttle to Designopolis (ditto) to buy home furnishings. On weekends, families can visit one of the nearby amusement parks; DreamPark — designed by the company that created both the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, and Universal Studios in Los Angeles — provides relief from the desert heat with water-themed entertainments, including a dolphin show, jungle cruise and log-chute rides. When the children are old enough, they can enroll in the prestigious British International School, which recently moved to Allegria from downtown Cairo.
Egypt’s boom in luxury suburbs began in the 1990s with the first wave of privatization of government agencies and public land. Vast swaths of desert were sold at bargain prices to friends and relatives of President Mubarak, who also received guarantees of infrastructure like roads, electricity and water lines.  These insider deals led to outrageous claims of water rights, like the assurance of unlimited fossil groundwater to a Saudi prince who wanted to grow food in the Sahara. International companies vied for contracts to build water treatment facilities. To be sure, life in the Saharan suburbia was not always as idyllic as advertised; developers of gated communities typically promised reverse osmosis filtration, but many found it cheaper to hook up to municipal water lines — and notoriously unreliable state-run water treatment plants — than to build dedicated facilities.  Still, residents paying up to $350 monthly in maintenance and utility fees expected clean water to flow freely when they turned on the tap, and more often than not it did. A recent study of two Cairo suburbs found that 69 percent of residents in Sixth of October City and 42 percent in New Cairo had tap water available at all times. 
All the while, as water was flowing and taxpayer money shifting to the exurban oases, millions of residents of old Cairo struggled with little access to sanitary facilities. The ostentatious water wealth that made possible the “greener side of life” was becoming a symbol of government corruption. The Revolution of the Thirsty was gathering strength.
Rooftop sorting of garbage and recyclable materials in Manshiyet Nasir, Cairo. [Photo by Joseph Hill]
Cairo is an extraordinarily congested metropolis, with twice the density of Manhattan, mainly because of its growing informal districts. Unlike some of the tin-and-plywood squatter settlements in some African cities, informal Cairo is a visually coherent environment of four- and five-story red-brick buildings, many with reinforcing bars jutting from the roof, awaiting the next floor. The planned and unplanned areas of the city are both crowded with markets and cafés; but in informal areas the under-the-table economy is dominant, and infrastructure must be bartered for and self-built because it is usually not provided by municipal authorities. In some neighborhoods, community-built roads are so narrow they can’t accommodate emergency traffic, only tuk-tuk taxis. Plumbing services range from a trench in the road to a hole in the ground, both emptied by sewage trucks that sometimes discharge their waste into the Nile canals from which people draw their drinking water when the tap runs dry. 
In the informal area of Manshiyat Naser — known as “Garbage City” because its economy is based on garbage collection — an estimated one million people live in just four and a half square miles, making it one of the most densely populated districts in Africa.  Here less than 15 percent of clean water needs are met by the municipality; most residents depend upon “hundreds of small private wells which draw from contaminated shallow aquifers” fed by the Nile.  Analyzing the area’s water supply, an NGO found that 75 percent of the samples “did not meet the minimum acceptable standards for drinking water in Egypt.” Yet because districts like Manshiyat Naser are extra-legal, residents can’t demand better infrastructure. They collect water in jerrycans, dig holes for toilets, connect to electricity illegally.  One resident complained: “Can you tell me why those people over there [in the formal areas] get better streets, better water, and better everything than us? Are they worth more?”  And another: “If a pipe bursts in [an upscale neighborhood] it’s fixed the same day. When pipes burst here, we go a week without water. Officials consider it a blessing — an opportunity to sell our water share to one of their cronies.” 
Like many Manshiyat Naser residents, Umm Amr works as a zabbaleen, or trash collector, sorting during the day the trash that her husband brings home at night; the trash is then packaged and sold for recycling, providing the family’s main source of income. As described in a poignant article by journalist Julia Gerlach, Umm, who is in her thirties, lives in a tiny room on the ground floor of an old house where she and her daughter sleep on the floor. Her husband sleeps on a bench; her two sons have the best accommodations — the one bed in the house. All the families in her three-story building share one bathroom, and Umm gets water from a neighbor across the street. Some days she simply goes without. “We wanted to build water pipes,” she says, “but they said we shouldn’t because the house is too old and the walls are rotten. The water would [cause] the house to collapse.” 
Manshiyet Nasir, “Garbage City,” Cairo. [Photo by Geson Rydén]
In 2008, Umm Amr’s problems became more pressing when rockslides killed at least 199 people and injured 55 others in Manshiyat Naser, due to untreated sewage soaking into the cliffs above her house. Afterward the national government designated certain areas as “unsafe” and required residents to relocate to a housing project 20 miles west of Cairo.  Once there, the lucky ones got jobs as housekeepers or landscapers at places like Allegria, but others had no employment or income in the suburbs and found that there was no public transportation back to the city. As a result some residents defied the relocation order, provoking a swift and ruthless official response; in an extreme case, a bulldozer was driven into a house in Manshiyat Naser with the family still inside. 
The story of the ongoing Egyptian Revolution is in many ways the story of Manshiyat Naser writ large. By the summer of 2010, in neighborhoods across Cairo, frustration with the lack of civic infrastructure, the scarce water and poor sanitation, had already begun to boil over. But revolutions do not happen unless people are capable of organizing; and by this point millions of Cairenes in extra-legal communities had amassed decades of experience in self-organization. Urban planner Kareem Ibrahim has described the situation: “Basically, there is no urban planning aside from what people, primarily lower socioeconomic classes, have informally taken upon themselves to address. … It’s as if people have accepted that they’re not really citizens of a country that has responsibilities towards them.”  During the “Friday of Anger” protests on January 28, 2011, Manshiyat Naser residents set the neighborhood authority office and local police stations on fire; both groups had been responsible for the mass evictions. Families then occupied the empty government buildings until they were evicted by riot police.  Mini-revolutions like this occurred around the country but were rarely televised or even tweeted.
Yet even as revolutionary fervor was intensifying, and right up to the final days of the Mubarak regime, international investors and the World Bank were lauding the success of Egypt’s privatization program. As a Forbes advertorial sponsored by major banks and developers had declared: “Despite the global economic crisis in 2009, Egypt managed to sustain a 4.7% growth in GDP — an enviable rate for most countries — largely due to strong growth fundamentals [and] effective market reforms.” The market reforms — that is, the privatization programs — had indeed raised the country’s GDP, but only by creating an enormous real estate and water speculation bubble for those with the right connections. In 2010, the World Bank praised Egypt as “among the world’s ten most active reformers,” citing “impressive poverty reduction” and “rapid economic growth.” The Bank promised to continue supporting “Egypt’s reforms in the water supply and sanitation sector,” including its policy of cost recovery and privatization.  Then, in January 2011, the nation rose up, and many wondered how the World Bank could have gotten it so wrong. 
After the early success of the revolution in the winter of 2011, in the heady days after Mubarak’s resignation, former government officials and land developers were brought up before the interim authorities to answer for their allegedly corrupt privatization deals. Magdy Rasekh, the founder and former chair of SODIC — and the father-in-law of Hosni Mubarak’s elder son — fled the country to avoid arrest. He was tried in absentia and convicted this spring of illegally seizing public lands, and sentenced to five years hard labor and a $330 million fine, along with Mohamed Ibrahim Suleiman, Mubarak’s longtime housing minister. Another developer of a gated community was sentenced to 10 years in prison. According toThe National, “Thousands of corruption allegations have surfaced and some of the country’s best-known businessmen have gone on trial.” Mubarak himself was accused of receiving direct kickbacks from developers as well as investments in the new suburban developments, and his assets — by some estimates as much as $70 billion — were frozen as Egypt tried to track down the sources of his wealth.
Today, as corruption charges progress through the courts, market analysts worldwide are watching closely. The looming question is whether or not the land and water requisitioned to create projects like Allegria will be returned to the government and re-nationalized. Most foreign financial analysts remain certain that this will not happen. According to Dubai analyst Ankur Khetawat, “We don’t think the government will take all the land back. They will prefer to settle because it’s all about money at the end of the day.”  The consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, headquartered in California, has predicted that private water companies, which made $1.35 billion in Egypt in 2010, would earn double that figure by 2015; as the firm’s report concluded: “The water scarcity in Egypt is one of the most critical in the region … This has created a lot of opportunities for development.” 
Meanwhile, the World Bank, along with the International Monetary Fund, has maintained a largely business-as-usual attitude toward the interim government, offering 4.5 billion dollars in loans over two years to aid in “recovery.” According to the World Bank, “About two billion dollars in loans would be linked to progress in government reforms,” including privatization.  In response, several dozen civil society groups in Egypt released a statement claiming that “IMF and World Bank policies had helped to facilitate the oppressive regimes in the region,” and demanding instead a “people-led process of development.” 
New campus of the American University in Cairo, in New Cairo. [Photo by Lorenz Khazaleh]
The British geographer James Duncan has described the colonial city as “a political tract written in space and carved in stone. The landscape was part of the practice of power.”  Today the green and gated suburbs of Cairo have become a political tract for the neoliberalism that undergirds the growing power of a global elite (never mind the corruption involved in their development). They are products of the corporatized and privatized paradigm that has dominated Egypt for many years; there in the desert the market logic is made manifest in extravagant and thirsty communities of air-conditioned villas and velvety lawns — in the promise that money can buy all the water in the world.
More than a year after the revolution, downtown Cairo’s water is still flowing to the suburbs, and along with it the life of the capital. At the new campus of the American University in Cairo, in the suburb of New Cairo, there are 27 fountains and “water features”; meanwhile, at the old campus in Tahrir Square, the library was recently set on fire, revolutionary graffiti covers the walls, and week-long skirmishes sometimes break out between rioters and police.  All the while Allegria’s profits are climbing, seemingly unassailable, after taking a brief dive in response to the fall of the Mubarak government. On the first anniversary of the revolution, Allegria announced: “To commemorate 25th January, we will offer 50% green fees.” That month SODIC signed new real estate development contracts worth $36 million, and share prices doubled within six weeks.
Karen Piper is a professor of English at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
1. The settlements are known as ashwai’yat, an Arabic word that means random or haphazard. According to urban planner David Sims, 11 million people live in informal areas. See David Sims, Understanding Cairo in Revolutionary Times (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2011). To understand the complexity of estimating population figures for informal areas, see Cairo’s Informal Areas: Between Urban Challenges and Hidden Potentials, eds. Regina Kipper and Marion Fischer (Cairo: German Technical Cooperation, June 2009).
2. Reem Leila, “No Flow,” Al-Ahram Weekly Online, September 11-17, 2008.
4. See Shahira Amin, “Egypt’s Farmers Desperate for Clean Water,” CNN, November 10, 2010.
5. Philip Marfleet and Rabab El-Mahdi, “Egyptians Have Removed a Dictator; Can They Remove a Dictatorship?” ZNet, February 22, 2011.
6. Alya Kebiri, “Egypt Water Pricing: A Viable Solution for Egypt’s Water Crisis?,”World Environment Magazine No. 3, June 2009, 70-74.
7. The mandate for the newly privatized water utility reads: “Just like a private company, the Holding’s aim is to create profits.” The mission statement now reads: “The purpose of the Holding company is to purify, desalinate, transfer, distribute and sell potable water, collection, treatment and safe disposal of wastewater whether by itself or through any of its subsidiaries as well as formation and management of a securities portfolio which may include shares, bonds and any other financial tools.” See The Arab Republic of Egypt Public-Private Partnership Program: 6th of October Wastewater Treatment Plant Project: Information Memorandum (November 2009), 24. See also Alya Kebiri, op cit.
8. See Alya Kebiri, op cit.
10. Marfleet and El-Mahdi, op cit.
11. In those years the government of Egypt sold land for the price it would take to supply infrastructure like waste and water treatment, free from customs and state taxes. Alternatively, a developer could build the infrastructure and get the land for free. See the website of the New Urban Communities Authority, the government agency responsible for the development of the “New Towns.”
12. One Allegria homeowner complained on Facebook, “There is no Main Tank & pumping station for Allegria & it is directly connected to the municipality water line!?” The Allegria Homeowner’s Facebook page, accessed on October 30, 2011, appears to have been shut down following legal negotiations with the owners.
13. In 2010, SODIC listed “amounts collected” for “operation and maintenance of Allegria project” as $9 million. Homeowners pay for “basic services,” including “security, waste collection and pest control, as well as maintenance of streets, street lighting, electricity, water, sewage infrastructure, and public gardens and landscape.” See “Allegria: Property Management” SODIC, 2007. On the issue of water availability, see Salwa Abdel Maksoud Abdullah Eissa, Intra-Urban Migration to the New Cities in the Greater Cairo Region: Cause and Consequences, Master’s Thesis, American University of Cairo, Spring 2011. See also Sixth of October Development and Investment Company, Consolidated Financial Statements for the Financial Period Ended June 30, 2010, 32.
14. Susana Myllylä, “Cairo: A Mega-City and Its Water Resources,” Presentation at “The third Nordic Conference on Middle Eastern Studies: Ethnic Encounter and Culture Change,” Joensuu, Finland, June 19-22, 1995.
15. Amnesty International, “We Are Not Dirt”: Forced Evictions in Egypt’s Informal Settlements, No. MDE 12/001/2001, London: Amnesty International, 2011, 12.
16. In contrast, “The Housing Study for Urban Egypt,” conducted in 2008 for USAID, showed that 96.7 percent of households in Greater Cairo had access to a water faucet inside the dwelling and that 98 percent had access to proper sewerage lines.” (See Steven Viney, “Minimalist ‘Urban Planning’ Keeps Cairo Afloat, But Not without Drawbacks,” Cairo Observer, September 11, 2011.)
See also Sarah Sabry, “Poverty Lines in Greater Cairo, Underestimating and Misrepresenting Poverty,”Poverty Reduction in Urban Areas Series, Working Paper 21 (London: Human International Institute for Environment and Development, May 2009), 31. See also R.S. Nakashima, G.Z. Bisada, O.F. Gergis, A. Gawigati, and J.H. Hendrich, Making Cities Work: The Greater Cairo Healthy Neighborhood Program, An Urban Environmental Health Initiative in Egypt, Activity Report EHP No. 142 (Arlington, VA, USA: Environmental Health Project, September 2004), xiv.
17. See R.S. Nakashima, et. al, Making Cities Work: The Greater Cairo Healthy Neighborhood Program, An Urban Environmental Health Initiative in Egypt.
18. Julia Gerlach, “Me and My Neighborhood,” in Cairo’s Informal Areas: Between Urban Challenges and Hidden Potentials, 55.
19. Cam McGrath, op cit.
20. Quoted in Julia Gerlach, “Me and My Neighborhood,” 53-59.
21. Also in 2008, the Mubarak regime passed a law stating that if a building were found in violation of code, it would automatically be demolished. (Previously, a 1976 law allowed for the builder to reconcile with authorities by paying a fine, which led to corruption.) Mubarak’s new law, which had the greatest impact in Cairo, appeared to be a plan for the de facto demolition of sections of the city.
22. Amnesty International, “We Are Not Dirt,” 42.
23. Quoted in Steven Viney, “Minimalist ‘Urban Planning’ Keeps Cairo Afloat, But Not without Drawbacks,”Egypt Independent, September 11, 2011.
24. Amnesty International, “We Are Not Dirt,” 3.
25. See World Bank, “Most Improved Business Reformers in DB 2010.” See also Daniela Marotta, Ruslan Yemtsov, Heba El-Laithy, Hala Abou-Ali, Sherine Al-Shawarby, “Was Growth in Egypt Between 2005 and 2008 Pro-Poor? From Static to Dynamic Poverty Profile,” Policy Research Working Paper, World Bank Report No. WPS5589, March 1, 2011; and “The World Bank Supports Egypt’s Reforms in the Water Supply and Sanitation Sector.”
26. According to sociologist Sarah Sabry, the World Bank estimates have been politically motivated and used as evidence of the success of privatization policies. Just after the revolution, an Al Jazeera article cited neo-liberalism and privatization as among the chief causes of the revolution. Walter Ambrust wrote, “Egypt did not so much shrink its public sector, as neoliberal doctrine would have it, as it reallocated public resources for the benefit of a small and already affluent elite. Privatization provided windfalls for politically well-connected individuals.” See “A Revolution Against Neoliberalism?” Al Jazeera, February 24, 2011.
The pro-privatization magazine Global Water Intelligence immediately countered: “It is an absolute travesty to suggest that privatisation is the root of the problem … [and] incorrect to associate the privatisation programmes in North Africa with corruption and incompetence.” Instead, the article claimed, privatization led only to “transparency” and “competitive bidding.” See “Winning the War on Corruption and Incompetence,”Global Water Intelligence, March 3, 2011.See also Sarah Sabry, “Poverty Lines in Greater Cairo: Underestimating and Misrepresenting Poverty,” 5.
27. Zainab Fattah and Mahmoud Kassem, “Egypt’s Developers Pay the Price for Ties to Mubarak’s Regime,”Bloomberg, June 7, 2011.
28. See Frost & Sullivan, Assessment of Water and Wastewater Sector in Egypt, Report No. P541, May 2011.
29. “Investing in the Arab Spring,” Voice of America, May 26, 2011.
30. Cairo journalist Wael Kahlil wrote, “I recall repeatedly demonstrating over the past 10 years against the Hosni Mubarak regime and chanting against the ‘Fund’ and the ‘Bank,’ meaning the IMF and the World Bank. ‘We will not be governed by the Bank, we will not be governed by imperialism,’ we chanted, ‘and here are the terms of the Bank: poverty, hunger and rising prices.’” See Rosemary D’Amour, “Looking for Democracy in the Wake of Arab Spring,” IPS, Sept. 23, 2011. See also Wael Khalil, “Egypt’s IMF-Backed Revolution? No Thanks,” The Guardian, June 7, 2011.
Recently, during a personal interview conducted at the World Water Forum in Marseille, France, on March 17, 2012, I asked Mohamed Ahmed, Deputy Manager in the Planning Sector of the Ministry of Water Resources, if he thought Egypt’s water policies would change, post-revolution. He replied, “I’m not at the top level of the Ministry, but — and this is my personal opinion — I don’t expect major changes in [national] water policy.” When I pressed him about the future of Cairo’s new suburban developments, he became defensive, asking what I meant by “new developments.” When I mentioned places like Dreamland, he replied, “These are not very new developments. I can’t think of any new developments.” (Dreamland’s website claims it was “conceived” in 1995 and is still partly under construction.) I finally asked if he was aware of the litigation over land sales or the possibility of land being returned to the government. Ahmed replied, “I know what you’re talking about, but I’m not involved in this. I think if the land is taken back, maybe there would be some change in terms of providing water, but I’m not sure.” To his credit, he truly did seem unaware of the situation.
31. James Duncan, “Re-Presenting the Landscape: Problems of Reading the Intertextual,” Paysage e crise de la lisibilite, eds L. Mondada, F. Panese, and O. Soderstrom (Lausanne: Universite de Lausanne, Institut de Geographie, 1992), 86.
32. See “Street Art and the Power to Mobilize,” Daily News Egypt, April 10, 2012; Amany Aly Shawky, “Streets of Cairo: From AUC Crossing to Battlefield at Mohamed Mahmoud,” Egypt Independent, November 23, 2011; and “Letter from Lisa Anderson, President of the American University in Cairo to the AUC Community,” dated November 21, 2011.
By Lawrence Davidson
January 03, 2014 “Information Clearing House – This past week the confrontation between Egypt’s ruling regime and the country’s Muslim Brotherhood intensified. In an act that should make anyone familiar with this ongoing struggle sit up and shake their head, the “military-backed government” in Cairo declared Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist organization.” In case anyone is inclined to get the sides mixed up, it is the Muslim Brotherhood that is defending democracy in this confrontation, and the media’s use of the euphemism “military-backed government” is to be understood as whitewash for military dictatorship.
The truth is that the Muslim Brothers have behaved in a civil fashion. Indeed, they have shown great restraint in the face of the violent, sometimes terrorist-style provocations of the Egyptian military and police. Always advocating nonviolent demonstrations against the military coup that brought down Egypt’s first honestly elected government in modern times, the Brothers and their supporters have been met with murderous official violence that has killed, wounded and jailed thousands. Thus, when the generals brand the Muslim Brothers “terrorists,” they are using an Orwellian propaganda ploy. As is so often the case, it is the dictatorship that practices terrorism and many of those who are resisting are destined to be its victims.
This doesn’t mean that there has not been violent resistance to the dictatorship. There have been steadily increasing instances of this, such as car-bombings of government buildings and attacks on police and military posts. The violent resistance started in the Sinai region of Egypt and has now spread across the Nile into the country’s heartland. For instance, on 25 December 2013 the police headquarters at Mansoura, a city northeast of Cairo, was destroyed and 15 people died. However, it was not the Brotherhood that launched this or other attacks like it. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (roughly translated as “Defenders of Holy Jerusalem”), a group unaffiliated with the Muslim Brothers, has taken responsibility. None of this matters to the dictatorship in Cairo. It has taken advantage of the violence to attempt to destroy the Brotherhood. This is probably an impossible goal and its pursuit risks civil war.
It is interesting that Ansar Beit al-Maqdis’s violence has been described in the Western media as “extremist.” Violence can be considered extreme by definition and this group’s violence is spreading. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has warned that police, soldiers and anyone else associated with the dictatorship is now a target. On the other hand, rarely have the actions of what now passes for a government in Egypt been labeled “extremist” in the media, although the generals have repeatedly killed and maimed nonviolent protesters. In truth it is the dictatorship itself which has set down the options for those who resist it: either give up entirely or pick up the gun. This stands as a lesson in ends and means – the means employed by dictatorial regimes usually don’t allow for peaceful protest and thereby steer the end that is resistance in the direction of violence.
Abandoning the Democratic Road
There will be many who rationalize Egypt’s military dictatorship by pointing to the flaws of the deposed Morsi government. Some will point out that, even though freely and fairly elected, the Morsi government was soon rejected by growing numbers of Egyptians. Thus, before the coup there were large demonstrations against the elected government. This is true, though the assertion that the protests represented a majority of the population is a politically motivated exaggeration. The problem with this rationale is that, unlike conditions under a dictatorship, there were democratic options open to the those who disliked the elected government. They likewise could have kept up the demand for broader input into government policy until the government compromised. Just before the coup, there were signs that this point was being reached. They could have waited until the next election cycle to attempt to turn the Morsi government out. There is no evidence that Morsi would have prevented future free and fair elections. It is to be noted that one thing the elected government did not do is shoot down protesters in the streets.
It might be that, except for a relatively small youth movement, most of the anti-Morsi coalition were never seriously interested in democracy. From the start of the demonstrations against the elected government, there was little or no hesitation by this coalition to abandon democratic practices. The regulations and procedures put in place by the prior Mubarak dictatorship were repeatedly used to stymie Morsi’s administration. Prominent in the use of this tactic were the courts and judges appointed by Mubarak. It soon became apparent that the anti-Morsi coalition did not have the patience to follow a democratic/electoral route to settling the question of Egypt’s ultimate character. Theirs was an all-or-nothing attitude which quickly led them to call on the military to “save the nation.” What was salvation to look like? One thing that is certain is that the Egyptian military lacks the skill to save, and indeed any interest in saving, Egyptian democracy.
What did this strategy get the anti-Morsi coalition? Did it get them a secular government that respects civil and human rights? Did it get them a government that can be trusted to hold free and fair elections? Certainly not, for the means they employed could not lead to such ends. It got them relief from the maybe of Sharia law in exchange for the certainty of a military coup and the violence through which all military dictators rule.
What do the military dictators of Egypt think their arbitrary and violent use of power will accomplish? Do they think that the country will return to the situation under Nasser-Sadat-Mubarak when authoritarian intimidation kept religious organizations under control and civil society quiet? Do they think that anyone will really be fooled by the rigged elections they are planning for 2014? If so, they have failed to consider the possibility that the democratic election of Mohammad Morsi may well have changed the historical equation. In terms of history, what they should be referencing is not their own dictatorial past but the events of Algeria in the 1990s. In that place and time, another military regime shut down the pro-Islamic results of a democratic election and triggered a decade of savage civil war. This is an end that is quite consistent with the means used by the Egyptian generals in 2013.
The Evolving U.S. Response
The United States government had been a consistent backer of Egyptian dictatorships ever since Anwar Sadat made his historic peace with Israel in March of 1979. From that time on the U.S. treasury has been paying out at least $1.55 billion dollars (the publicly used low figure) in mostly military aid to Egypt. That aid has helped sustain a corrupt Egyptian officer corps that now controls a good part of the Egyptian economy and has no one to fight except its own people.
In February 2011 a genuinely popular and mostly nonviolent revolt forced the collapse of the Mubarak dictatorship. This led to Egypt’s first internationally monitored, free and fair election. For a while it looked like the Egyptian military would be forced out of politics, and U.S. President Barack Obama seemed to accept this turn of events. Even when the Egyptian generals returned to form and pulled off their coup in July 2013, the Obama administration reacted with displeasure and cut off some of the annual aid payments. The only ones in the Middle East who found this objectionable were other U.S.-supported dictatorships such as those in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.
However, now the U.S. government might be considering to once more support an Egyptian dictatorship. Suggestions that this might be the case came recently from Secretary of State John Kerry in a speech delivered on 20 November 2013 to the State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council. Here Kerry showed an embarrassing lack of knowledge about the events that brought down the Mubarak dictatorship and a remarkably naive notion of what it takes to make and sustain a revolution. Thus:
“Those kids in Tahrir Square, they were not motivated by any religion or ideology. They were motivated by what they saw through this interconnected world, and they wanted a piece of the opportunity and a chance to get an education and have a job and have a future, and not have a corrupt government that deprived them of all of that and more. And they tweeted their ways and Facetimed [sic] their ways and talked to each other and that’s what drove that revolution. And then it got stolen by the one single most organized entity in the state, which was the Brotherhood.”
The fact that Kerry could make such a diagnosis to a group of allegedly knowledgeable security advisers is chilling. Kerry is way off the mark and here is why:
- The very brave youths of Cairo and Alexandria who began the 2910-2011 protests against the Mubarak dictatorship laid the basis for the conditions that eventually brought down that regime. But they alone could not and did not achieve that goal.
- These youth were not devoid of either religion or ideology. Most were Muslims of varying degree of practice and almost all of them believed in a democratic ideology.
- Despite their use of social networking and other technologies, the youth groups were too small to make a revolution.
- The revolution became possible only when much greater numbers were introduced into the streets to transform the demonstrations from large to massive. The decision to bring out those numbers was taken by the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that is religious but was also willing to follow a democratic path.
- The Brotherhood could manage to bring out the large numbers not just because it was “the most organized entity in the state” but because for decades it has also been the most effective and popular social service organization in Egypt.
The truth then is that the Brotherhood did not “steal” the revolution, it made it possible.
Today’s Egypt is a mess. It is an economic mess thanks to decades of military dictatorship, corruption and greed. It is a political mess for the same reason. Whatever faults might be laid at the feet of the elected Morsi government, none of them warranted a return to thuggish military rule – an action which, for all practical purposes, brought the ideals of the Arab Spring to a tragic end.
One can only hope that the U.S. government, rising above the historical ignorance of John Kerry and his speech writers, will hold to principle and have as little as possible to do with the regime in Cairo. It is a nasty regime, brutal to its own people, barbaric in its policy toward the imprisoned population of Gaza and, not surprisingly, in bed with the Zionists and autocratic Gulf monarchs. As for Egypt’s democratic revolution that almost was, one can hope that it survives as a precedent for the future.
Lawrence Davidson is a retired professor of history from West Chester University in West Chester PA. His academic research focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He taught courses in Middle East history, the history of science and modern European intellectual history.
He’s Washington’s man in Cairo. Since August 2012, he’s been top military commander.
He’s Defense and Military Production Minister. He’s a 1977 Egyptian Military Academy graduate. He got US training. He’s a US War College graduate.
He maintains close Pentagon ties. Washington manipulated Mubarak’s ouster. It was complicit in toppling Mohamed Morsi.
It deplores democracy. It opposes it at home and abroad. It’s governed by a homeland police state apparatus.
It backs pro-Western fascist despots globally. Doing so reflects business as usual.
Egyptian civilian officials have no legitimacy. They’re appointed. They’re figureheads. They’re puppets. They’re convenient stooges.
Elections when held won’t matter. Brute force runs Egypt. Ousting Morsi on July 3 was reminiscent of September 11, 1973. Chileans old enough to remember won’t forget.
A reign of terror followed. Pinochet’s “Caravan of Death” reflected it. A climate of fear included mass arrests, disappearances, torture and murder.
Opposition government officials, academics, union heads, independent journalists, student leaders, activists, and other suspected regime opponents were targeted.
US citizens Charles Horman, Frank Teruggi, Boris Weisfeiler and Ronni Moffit were killed.
Horman’s death was the subject of a 1982 Hollywood film. It was titled “Missing.” He and thousands of others were Caravan of Death victims.
Nixon vowed to make Chile’s economy scream. Kissinger was his national security advisor. He and CIA operatives orchestrated Salvador Allende’s ouster.
After his 1970 election, Kissinger said:
“I don’t see why we need to stand idly by and let a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”
Allende was a progressive democratic leader. He was no communist. Junta head General Augusto Pinochet put General Sergio Arellano in charge of assuring provincial commanders complied with hard-line policies.
He was told to establish a uniform criteria of justice. He later explained, saying:
“With no concern for the guise of legality, as in the case of some War Councils, prisoners were taken out and shot under the cover of night. Most executions were attributed to attempts to escape.”
Retired Lt. Col. Marcos Herrera Aracena said:
“General Arellano informed me that what Pinochet wanted was to bring an end to the remaining legal processes. In other words, finish with them once and for all.”
Death squad justice was instituted. At issue was terrorizing Chileans. Instilling fear and crushing resistance were prioritized. Military commanders were ordered to go all out to solidify junta power.
Victims were buried in unmarked graves. Some were mutilated before being executed. General Joaquin Lagos explained why he didn’t return some bodies to family members, saying:
“I was ashamed to see them. They were torn into pieces. So I wanted to put them together, at least leave them in a human form.”
“Yes, their eyes were gouged out with knives, their jaws broken, their legs broken.”
“At the end, they gave them the coup de grace. They were merciless. The prisoners were killed so that they would die slowly.”
“In other words, sometimes they shot them by parts. First, the legs, then the sexual organs, then the heart. In that order, the machine guns were fired.”
Death squads killed thousands. Chile remains one of Latin America’s most unequal societies. Chicago School fundamentalism creates wastelands.
Chile remains a model of economic unfairness. Crony capitalism reflects out-of-control corruption, inequality and injustice.
General el-Sisi is Egypt’s Pinochet. Since usurping power, he instituted reign of terror justice. Sweeping crackdowns continue.
Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members are targeted. So are supporters and others challenging junta authority. Thousands were arrested. Others were disappeared, tortured and murdered.
Over 1,000 nonviolent street protesters were killed. Everyone suspected of supporting MB is threatened. So are activists demanding democracy.
President Morsi is charged with murder, treason, espionage, and sponsoring terrorism. He’s accused of collaborating with Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and anti-regime groups. Bogus charges claim he did so to destabilize Egypt.
Kangaroo court justice awaits him. He faces possible capital punishment. Around three dozen other MB officials face similar charges.
Morsi remains in maximum security prison confinement. He’s held incommunicado. Attorneys and family members are denied access. Some MB co-defendants remain at large.
On December 25, Egypt’s so-called cabinet declared MB a terrorist organization. It did so unconscionably.
It did it following Dakahlia Governate’s Security Directorate headquarters bombing. Sixteen died. MB officials denied involvement.
A group named Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) claimed responsibility. Crackdowns on MB members continue. According to journalist Shahira Amin:
“This is a new escalation in a long-running feud between the security state and the Muslim Brotherhood.”
“What they are trying to achieve is to crush the Islamist group altogether and not to leave any room for that group to enter into political life again.”
“Declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terror group will mean criminalizing their activities, criminalizing their financing, and also criminalizing their membership.”
“Their protests are already outlawed. Their leaders are already behind bars and thousands of their supporters languish in prisons.”
IKHWAN WEB is MB’s official English language web site. On December 27, it headlined ’Muslim Brotherhood Legal Committee: Classifying Group as Terrorist Legally Null and Void.”
“This classification came without investigation, without evidence.”
“No entity should be so classified or disbanded, except through legal procedures.”
“Thus naming the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization is completely groundless in the absence of any evidence to prove this description which is vehemently rejected by the group.”
“(T)he decision is invalid and illegal, because so far no court made any definitive judgments about the group and its leaders.”
“The Brotherhood’s Legal Committee is considering an appeal of this decision. It will announce its course of action and legal position later.”
Egypt Court of Cassation is its highest judicial authority. Seven appeals courts are next in importance.
Tanta Court of Appeals Judge Walid el Shaf’i called designating MB a terrorist organization illegal. If challenged in court, it’ll be declared so, he said.
He cited Article 86 of Egypt’s Penal Law. It can only be enforced by court order. Egypt’s cabinet acted by executive decision. Doing so is illegal, he added.
On Thursday, dozens more MB members were arrested nationwide. Their land, funds, and other resources were confiscated.
Egypt’s Islamic Medical Association hospitals are affected. An MB leader established them in the 1970s. They serve over two million patients annually.
They’re mostly in poor neighborhoods. They’re highly regarded. They considered preferred alternatives to poorly run government hospitals.
Since Morsi’s ouster, government funding was cut. Admissions at Cairo’s Nasr City district Central Hospital dropped by half. Many people fear seeking treatment. Doing so might suggest MB support.
Other network hospitals were forced to reduce services to save money. Central Hospital director Medhat Omar expressed concern, saying:
“If it goes on like this, we won’t be able to take on any patients.” Funds aren’t available to pay salaries or other expenses.
Egypt’s “war on terrorism” targets its own. It does so ruthlessly. It does it lawlessly. It aims to terrorize Egyptians into submission.
El-Sisi vowed to eradicate everyone challenging his power from “the face of the earth. Don’t let these treacherous terrorist incidents affect your spirits,” he said.
He referred to several recent bombings. “We’re on the side of pronounced righteousness,” he claimed.
Many, perhaps most, Egyptians believed it last July. Fewer do today. Police state viciousness makes everyone fearful.
Public demonstrations are banned. Anyone criticizing government policies risks arrest and imprisonment.
Dozens handing out pro-MB leaflets were arrested. One death was reported. During a Thursday army graduation ceremony, el-Sisi said:
“Egypt will stand firm in confronting terrorism and the people will never be afraid as long as the army is present.”
Anyone charged with supporting MB “verbally or in writing” faces five years imprisonment. US expressed concern is too muted to matter.
Washington endorses coup d’etat harshness. A previous article asked when is a coup not one? It’s when US officials suggest otherwise.
Reign of terror ruthlessness is official Egyptian policy. Rule of law principles don’t matter. Government by diktat rules. No ones is safe from rampaging government forces.
MB officials risk being disappeared, tortured and murdered. Others face potential life in prison. So does anyone providing funding. Supporting MB publicly is considered terrorism.
Regular protests continue. People involved do so at great risk. One MB supporter perhaps spoke for others, saying: “People don’t have anything to lose.”
Rights can’t be gotten without sustained struggle. Conditions today are far worse than under Mubarak.
State terror more than ever is official policy. Anyone challenging regime authority is vulnerable. Pinochet’s ghost resides in Egypt. Same old, same old repeats.
London Guardian editors headlined ”Egypt: back with a vengeance,” saying:
“The skies are darkening over Egypt…How miserably different this is from” what most Egyptians hoped for.
Revolutionary change “is now being torn up by its roots…Mubarak regime (opponents) are now being victimized by its successor.”
Egypt’s rulers “are determined” to stamp out all opposition. “It is now evident that the Egyptian military, behind its unconvincing civilian facade, is ready to be as hard on its secular as on its religious opponents.”
Mubarak’s removal changed nothing. Junta power bided its time. It “gr(ew) a new head,” said Guardian editors. “(N)ow (it’s) back, quite literally, with a vengeance.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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By Johannes Stern
28 December 2013
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s bomb blast in front of the Daqahliya Security Directorate in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura—in which at least 16 were killed and 134 wounded—Egypt’s military junta is widening its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and, ultimately, on all opposition to its dictatorial regime.
On Friday, security forces arrested 265 MB members and crushed protests called by the MB-led National Alliance for Legitimacy in Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Sohag, Fayoum, Bani Souef, Damietta, Behaira and other parts of the country. At least three people were reported killed.
In the Upper Egyptian city of Luxor, police dispersed protesters with teargas. In Cairo’s Zeitoun district, security forces prevented protesters from marching to the Al-Qoba presidential palace. At Al-Azhar University’s Nasr City campus, police attacked university students protesting outside their hostels in solidarity with a classmate killed the day before.
On Thursday, scores of MB members were arrested. Fifteen were detained in Alexandria, sixteen in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqiya, and eleven in Zagazig on charges of belonging to a “terrorist organization” and “inciting violence against the army and the police”. The same day, the junta blocked the MB’s Freedom and Justice Newspaper from publication. It also froze the MB’s funds and those of social and charitable organizations it accused of having MB ties.
Immediately after the bombing, the regime and media blamed the MB for the attack. Speaking at the scene, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim claimed that the MB was retaliating for massacres at two Islamist protest camps on August 14, when security forces shot hundreds of Islamist opponents of the July 3 military coup that toppled MB President Mohamed Mursi.
The MB—Egypt’s largest Islamist organization, which has faced a massive crackdown since the coup, including the killing of thousands of members and the arrest of its top leadership—denied any connection to the attack. Issuing a statement from its London office, the MB condemned the blast as “a direct attack on the unity of the Egyptian people.” It demanded an “inquiry so that the perpetrators of this crime may be brought to justice.”
An Egyptian Islamist militant group, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the bombings. A statement published Wednesday boasted that the attack had been carried out by a suicide bomber named “Abu Maryam”.
Under the cover of its so-called “fight against terrorism,” the junta is seeking to annihilate the MB and restore the military-police state as it existed prior to the mass uprising that overthrew former dictator Hosni Mubarak in early 2011. In the past weeks the junta issued an anti-protest law and drafted anew constitution effectively enshrining military dictatorship.
On Wednesday, Hossam Eisa, deputy prime minister and minister of higher education, announced at a news conference “Egypt’s cabinet has decided to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization subject to Article 86 of the penal law.”
Eisa said, “Punishments of terrorism acts stated by the law would be applied to anyone participating in the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood group or organization, anyone promoting it verbally or by writing, and everyone financing it. Punishments would be applied to anyone who joins the Muslim Brotherhood group or organization, or continues to be a member of both since the declaration.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif threatened on state television that from now on, anyone taking part in MB-protests will be jailed for five years. Jail terms for those accused of belonging to a terrorist organization could stretch up to life imprisonment. “The sentence could be death for those who lead this organization,” he added.
Speaking at an army graduation ceremony on Thursday, coup leader and de facto dictator General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi vowed to intensify the crackdown. He declared that “freedom and stability” will not come easily and demanded that Egyptians “put their trust in God, the army and the police.” He threatened that the “Egyptian army will sacrifice itself for Egypt and Egyptians, and those who harm you will vanish from the face of the earth.”
The junta is trying to impose an atmosphere of fear and terror to pre-empt a new eruption of mass protests in the working class, the main force behind the revolution. Recent months have seen several significant industrial actions, including October’s strike by Mahalla textile workers and this month’s protests by temp gold miners at the Sukhari mine, demanding permanent contracts. The miners were attacked and dispersed by police on December 15.
The junta is also launching a reactionary crackdown on students, youth movements, and pseudo-left parties—the April 6 Youth, the Revolutionary Socialists (RS), and various NGOs and human rights groups linked to them.
On Friday the High Council of Universities banned all student protests during midterm exams and said police would be deployed on campuses to enforce the ban. Anti-government protests have swept across Egyptian universities this semester, often organized by pro-MB students. Many students have been killed by the security forces.
Last Sunday a misdemeanor court sentenced the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel and Ahmed Douma to three years in jail for violating the anti-protest law and allegedly assaulting police officers. On December 18, heavily-armed security forces stormed the offices of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights and detained Mohamed Adel, another leading April 6 member.
Arrest warrants were reportedly also issued earlier this month for RS member Haitham Mohamadein and Sharif al-Roubi, a leader of the 6 April Democratic Front group.
These arrests are an indictment of the bankrupt, counterrevolutionary politics of the April 6 Youth and the RS. They worked with the Tamarod (“Rebel”) political coalition that backed the July 3 coup—supporting the installation of the junta that is now moving against them—in order to channel mass anger in the working class with Mursi and the MB behind the army.
They are now assembling a so-called Revolutionary Path Front, together with the Islamist Strong Egypt Party, promoting a reactionary perspective of reconciliation between the junta and the MB. The aim of this maneuver is to build a better mechanism to suppress an independent movement of the working class.
Strong Egypt Party spokesman Ahmed Imam warned that labeling the MB as terrorist “leaves the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters only one choice, which is violence.” He complained that both sides are showing “a great deal of stupidity”. While blaming the MB for failing to strongly distance itself from violence, he blamed the government for closing the doors to reconciliation.
The reactionary character of the affluent middle class milieu in Egypt is most openly expressed by the liberal and “left” organizations that are applauding the junta’s steps to tighten its grip over the country.
The Tamarod movement praised the junta’s labeling the MB a terrorist organization, saying it was “better late than never”.
The liberal Free Egyptians Party funded by billionaire tycoon Naguib Sawiris welcomed the “historic decision” that puts an end to “one of the most horrible fascist and racist groups.”
Former presidential candidate and Nasserite leader Hamdeen Sabahi cynically described “the blood of the Mansoura martyrs” as an invitation “to unite on a comprehensive strategy to uproot terrorism.”
By Ramzy Baroud
2013 has expectedly been a terrible year for several Arab nations. It has been terrible because the promise of greater freedoms and political reforms has been reversed, most violently in some instances, by taking a few countries down the path of anarchy and complete chaos. Syria and Egypt are two cases in point.
Syria has been hit the hardest. For months, the United Nations has maintained that over 100,000 people have been killed in the 33 months of conflict. More recently, the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights concluded that at least 125,835, of which more than third of them are civilians, have been killed.
The UN’s humanitarian agency (OCHA) says that millions of Syrians living in perpetual suffering are in need of aid, and this number will reach 9.3 million by the end of next year.
OCHA’s numbers attempt to forecast the need for aid for the year 2014. However, that estimation reflects an equally ill-omened political forecast as well. There are currently 2.4 million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. The number will nearly double to 4.1 million by the conclusion of next year. Considering the growing political polarization between the Syrian parties involved in the conflict, and their regional and international backers, there is little hope that the conflict will die away in the near future.
In fact, the simple narrative of a conflict between a central government and an opposition is no longer applicable, since the opposition is itself fragmented into many parties, some with extreme religious agendas. The early discourse that accompanied the Syrian conflict, that of freedom, democracy and such is also of little relevance, considering the level of brutalities and the multiple objectives declared by the various fighting forces. But for Syrians, it is a lose-lose situation.
Syrians involved in this war understand well that a prolonged conflict could mean that the country faces the risk of complete breakdown, and that a Somalia or an Afghanistan scenario is in the offing. Then, few would even care to remember the original reasons of why the war started in the first place, as several generations of Syrian refugees would be doomed to live the same fate as the unending Palestinian refugee experience.
However, there is a glimmer of hope. The recently signed landmark deal between Iran and six other countries – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – could in fact usher in at least the mere possibility of resorting to dialogue in resolving the crisis in Syria. True, the deal was related to Iran’s nuclear program, but since all of these countries are active participants in the Syrian war, with much influence over the warring parties, their consent would be necessary for future dialogue between Damascus and the opposition to bear fruit.
A major question however will continue to surface: even if the secular Syrian opposition agrees to a future arrangement with the current Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, will that have any bearings on other extremist forces fighting their own cause? Even with the most optimistic assessments, the Syrian conflict is unlikely to be settled in 2014.
The same assessment is also relevant in the case of Egypt. In 2013, the conflict in Egypt has taken on a different dimension, although most media (Arab and international) are so saturated by half-truths and/or intentional misinformation. It is almost impossible to reach a level-headed understanding of what is transpiring in the most populated Arab country.
One main reason behind the confusion is that reporting on the Jan 25, 2011 revolution was overly sentimental and simplified. In some aspects, the bad guys vs. good guys scenario continues to define the Egyptian turmoil. The Egyptian media is a prime example of that. Since the well-orchestrated June 29 protest, followed by a military coup in July 03, some secular forces affiliated with the revolution lined up in support of the very forces affiliated with the deposed Mubarak regime. Both camps united in opposition of a government affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) – itself affiliated with the revolution. It gets more convoluted still, since the Islamic Salafist al-Nour Party has no problem siding with the military, in support of its newly drafted constitution, although it was al-Nour that tirelessly lobbied for a Sharia-driven constitution under the leadership of deposed President Mohammed Morsi. It was that kind of pressure that drove many secularist parties away from the committee that attempted to draft an earlier constitution, leaving the MB isolated. Al-Nour and secularist parties are now standing in the same political camp.
‘Dirty politics’ doesn’t even begin to describe what has befallen Egypt, for the violent dimension of this politicking is unknown in the modern history of the country. Nearly 20,000 Egyptians are now sentenced or facing trials for belonging or supporting the ‘wrong’ political camp. The military-backed government is now unleashing a ‘legal onslaught’, freeing those who affiliated with the Mubarak regime and imprisoning those affiliated with the MB. On Dec 21, the toppled president Morsi was referred by Egyptian prosecutors to a third criminal trial on “charges of organizing prison breaks during the 2011 uprising, spreading chaos and abducting police officers in collaboration with foreign militants,” reported the Associated Press.
Brotherhood lawyer Mohammed el-Damati described the purpose of all of this as an attempt to defeat every single achievement of the January revolution. “They are going over Jan. 25, 2011, with an eraser,” he said. But will they succeed?
While the military enjoys a great sway over every facet of power in Egypt, the Egyptian people are no longer passive participants. Reversing the achievement of the revolution will not necessarily affect the collective mindset that gave the Egyptian people the kind of zeal that made them stand and fight for their rights. No military diktats or legal maneuvering can erase that. 2014 is likely to be a year in which the nature of the conflict in Egypt changes from that of military vs. MB, into a non-elitist conflict that surpasses all of this into something else, perhaps a struggle that will recapture the spirit of the first revolution.
- Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).
By Johannes Stern
19 December 2013
On Saturday, military-backed interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour announced a national referendum on a new constitution for January 14 and 15.
In a speech broadcast on state TV, Mansour urged Egyptians to vote for the text which was worked out in secret by a hand-picked, 50-member committee, “Let this constitution be a word of justice, that unites and doesn’t separate… for hatred is a tool for destruction… disagreement is legislated, as long as it adopts peacefulness and is in the country’s interest.”
Standing next to Mansour, Amr Moussa, the head of the constitutional committee and former stalwart of the Mubarak regime, claimed “this is a constitution that clearly criminalises any form of discrimination against all citizens and ensures national unity.”
Also attending the ceremony at Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo were coup leader and Defence Minister General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim, Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, and a representative of Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Orthodox church.
What is cynically presented as an exercise in national unity and democracy is in reality a desperate attempt by a blood-stained junta and its supporters to legitimize its July 3 military coup and enshrine continued military dictatorship in the constitution.
The most significant part of the new constitution is its effort to defend the power and privileges of the military. It aims to strengthen the army’s role as the last bulwark of capitalist rule and of the bourgeois state in Egypt, on which the Egyptian bourgeoisie directly depended during the mass working class uprising that ousted former dictator Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
The constitution basically enshrines autonomy for the military, which has been the dominant political force in Egypt since the Free Officers coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1952.
The new constitution goes beyond even the 1971 constitution which formed the basis for the Mubarak dictatorship and the 2012 constitution, which was the result of the temporary alliance between the military and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB). While the former constitutions already granted the military a high degree of autonomy, it is now effectively acquiring the “legal” status of a state within a state.
Article 234 of the constitution stipulates that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) will approve the appointment of the Minister of Defence for two presidential terms. Article 203 establishes that the National Defence Council—a body dominated by the army brass and intelligence chiefs—will decide on the armed forces’ budget and on national security issues.
The new constitution also continues to allow the military prosecution of civilians. Article 204 states that civilians can face military trials for “crimes that represent direct assault on military establishment, the armed forces’ camps and the like, or the military areas or its border zones, its equipment, vehicles, weapons, ammunitions, documents, military secrets, public funds, factories, or crimes related to conscription or crimes that constitute a direct assault against its officers and personnel while performing their work.”
These formulations are so broad and general that military trials “based on the constitution” can easily be applied against striking workers or protesters.
Since mass revolutionary struggles broke out in Egypt in January 2011, various governments—the Mubarak regime, the SCAF junta and then Islamist president Mohamed Mursi—used military trials to suppress protests and strikes by workers and youth fighting for their social and democratic aspirations.
According to a study by Human Rights Watch, some 12 000 civilians were tried in military tribunals only between January 28, 2011—the famous Friday of anger when the military was deployed to replace the security forces after they have been defeated by protesters—and September 10, 2011. This amounts to more than the number of civilians who were sent to military trials in the three decades of dictatorial rule under Mubarak alone.
The new constitution also strengthens the police and broader security and intelligence apparatus. A Supreme Police Council is to decide on any law concerning the police and general intelligence officers will not be subject to civilian law, but to military courts. This effectively guarantees that the notorious police security and intelligence complex will all remain essentially immune from civilian oversight and prosecution.
Article 237 further demands that the state and its institutions fight “terrorism”. Political organizations and parties based on religion will be banned.
There could hardly be a clearer statement for continued military repression. Since the July 3 military coup the regime has been using the cover of an alleged “fight against terrorism” to intensify its crackdown against any opposition to its rule. The army has killed, wounded, and jailed thousands of supposedly “terrorist” opponents of the coup—mainly adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted President Mohamed Mursi—but also striking workers and protesting youth and students.
The anti-democratic character of the constitution highlights the reactionary character of the affluent middle class milieu in Egypt. Many of the liberal and “left” groups which first played a crucial role in channeling the mass working class discontent against Mursi and the Islamists behind the army are now an integral part of the military regime. They have been directly involved in drafting the constitution.
The constitutional committee included Tamarod leaders Mahmoud Badr and Mohamed Abdel Aziz, Egyptian Social Democratic Party leader and co-founder of the National Salvation Front Mohamed Abul Ghar, the head of the Nasserite Karama Party Mohamed Sami, and the deputy head of the National Progressive Unionist Party (Tagammu) Hussein Abdel-Razek. They were joined by a number of writers, artists, university professors, judges, religious figures, businessmen, representatives of the military and Interior Ministry, and various trade union leaders.
The military and its liberal and “left” supporters seek to push through the constitution by any means. Interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, warned last week that any attempt to disrupt the referendum will be thwarted, if necessary “using firearms.”
Las month, Mansour signed a new anti-protest law that effectively “legalizes” the junta’s violent crackdown on protests and strikes threatening participants with extensive jail time and high fines.
As the military regime is seeking to use the referendum to tighten its grip over the country before the third anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution on January 25, there are increasing signs of mass working class discontent. Polls conducted by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion research (Baseera) show that approval rates for the government are falling, from 37 percent in October to 20 percent in December.
The class gulf separating the regime and its supporters from the working class on the other was starkly revealed at a recent press conference of the pro-regime Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF).
ETUF chairman Abdel Fatah Ibrahim said “workers have a national duty to vote ‘Yes’” and called “on all political forces to unite for the success of the roadmap.” When laid-off workers interrupted Ibrahim and chanted against the constitution, Daily News Egypt reported, Ibrahim “ordered their removal from the hall, accusing them of being ‘terrorists’ and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.”
By Alex Lantier
14 October 2013
Workers at the state-run Mahalla Weaving and Textile Company mounted a three-day strike to force Egypt’s military junta to pay a promised profit-sharing bonus.
The 22,000-strong work force reportedly returned to work yesterday after receiving assurances they would be paid the bonus and also for the three days they were on strike.
Management yielded after workers stormed the CEO Fouad Abdel-Alim’s offices and threatened to increase their demands. Workers also demanded Abdel-Alim’s dismissal—a key demand of the Mahalla workers after the initial revolutionary uprising of the working class in Egypt in January 2011 that led to the toppling of US-backed dictator President Hosni Mubarak.
The Egyptian finance ministry had agreed earlier this year to make four equal profit-sharing payments, but delayed the second in August until workers mounted a sit-in to compel payment of the bonus. In this month’s action, workers demanded that the bonus, worth 45 days’ wages, be paid before the Eid holiday, on Wednesday.
Workers rejected the Egyptian Trade Union Federation’s (ETUF) attempts to delay payment of the bonus and allow the management to pay only workers’ regular monthly salary. The ETUF—which opposed the 2011 uprising, helping organize squads of thugs to attack protesters on Tahrir Square—has historically been controlled by the Egyptian military regime.
On Saturday, ETUF President Abdel Fatah Ibrahim called for the profit sharing to only be paid to workers “immediately after the Eid holiday.” He tried to confuse the issue by calling on management to “contact the bank in order to return the money and pay the workers’ salaries.”
Workers bluntly dismissed Ibrahim’s statement. Daily News Egypt cited a statement issued by representatives of workers at the plant, which declared: “The ETUF statement is wrong … We are expecting the profit share pay tomorrow, not the monthly salary, and if the share is not paid, we will continue our strike.”
The Mahalla plant is a historic center of working class militancy. Workers there mounted strikes against the Mubarak regime in 2006 and 2008 and were also a key force in the uprising against Mubarak. Amid rising working class opposition to right-wing Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last year, workers and students in the city of Mahalla declared themselves “autonomous” from what they called Mursi’s “Muslim Brotherhood State.”
The current Mahalla strike is the sharpest expression of rising working class opposition to Egypt’s military junta, which came to power in a July 3 coup amid mass protests against Mursi. The junta ousted and jailed Mursi, carrying out bloody massacres of thousands of protesters and Mursi supporters who opposed the coup.
The junta has tried to block the emergence of broader opposition to its rule by a combination of bloody terror and limited social concessions, like a promise to increase the public sector minimum wage. One purpose is to mollify rising anger over inflation, as the Egyptian pound (EGP) has lost 17 percent of its value since the 2011 uprising, according to official statistics.
This year, urban inflation stood at 9.7 percent already in August, with economists projecting that consumer price inflation will reach double-digit percentages in 2014.
Last month, Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi had proposed raising the monthly minimum wage in the public sector from EGP 700 to 1200 (US$102 to 174), starting in January 2014.
Workers and retirees are escalating wage demands against the junta. Five million Egyptian retirees receive monthly pensions of less than EGP 500 (US$73), and pensioners’ organizations called for a minimum pension of EGP 960. The Ministry of Social Solidarity has responded with a proposal to add a meager 5 percent bonus to pensions.
Workers are also calling for wage increases in the private sector, where weekly wages average only EGP 397, compared to EGP 657 in the public sector.
State officials and businessmen have denounced demands for higher wages and are pressing for the junta to reverse its proposed wage increases. Former Finance Minister Samir Radwan told the state-owned Ahram Weekly, “This move will burden the state budget and will lead to higher inflation.”
The escalating protests of the Egyptian working class are bringing them into direct collision with the bourgeois opposition and pseudo-left forces that effectively supported the junta, by backing the Tamarod (“Rebel”) coalition that prepared and offered political support to the July 3 coup. While they postured as a nationalist or even progressive alternative to Mursi, these forces are bitterly hostile to the working class and to a struggle for socialism.
The protests have exposed “independent” trade union official Kamal Abu Eita—a leader of the US-backed Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU), where he worked with the pseudo-left Revolutionary Socialists (RS), and a member of the Nasserite Karama Party. Having joined the junta as its Manpower Minister, Eita is now coordinating the repression of the working class.
Two weeks ago, a sit-in outside the Manpower Ministry by laid-off public sector workers demanding unemployment benefits was violently attacked and dispersed by security forces.
One worker who was present at the dispersal told Daily News Egypt, “A complaint has been filed to the prosecutor against the prime minister, the minister of manpower Kamal Abu Eita, and the warden of the Nasr City police station for the use of violence by security forces at the dispersal.”
In a television appearance, Abu Eita defended the state’s handling of the sit-in, falsely claiming it was ended as part of a mutual agreement with the workers. He also denounced the workers for mounting the sit-in, saying: “A sit-in implies that a person has had some right withheld from him. This is not the case with the individuals outside the ministry.”
Elements of the pseudo-left RS organization, which also backed Tamarod in the lead-up to the July 3 coup, are coordinating their policy with the junta, seeking to tie the workers to the regime and block the emergence of a politically independent movement of the working class. Inside the Mahalla plant, Kamal El-Fayoumi—a member of the RS-affiliated Workers Democratic Party—is working to submit alternate plans to the junta on how best to manage the plant.
“After the Eid holiday, we will present ideas to the ministers of investments and manpower about how to improve the company’s revenues and thus get paid on time,” El-Fayoumi told Al Ahram .
By Johannes Stern
11 October 2013
On Wednesday the Obama administration announced that it would cut some of its military aid to Egypt. Senior US officials revealed that besides F-16 warplanes whose delivery was halted in July, the Obama administration will not send 10 Apache helicopters, M1-A1 battle tanks and Harpoon anti-ship missiles despite existing contracts.
Washington will also continue to suspend $260 million in cash support promised to Egypt’s previous government under Islamist president Mohamed Mursi, before he was ousted in a July 3 coup. The funds had already been held up over Mursi’s failure to reach a new deal with the International Monetary Fund and push through subsidy cuts.
The partial suspension of military aid to Egypt is an admission that the Obama administration’s policies are essentially illegal. The US government may not legally provide aid to a country whose government has been overthrown by a military coup. Washington has avoided defining the military takeover in Egypt as a “coup,” however, as it doesn’t want to break up its relations to a country that is one of its closest allies in the Middle East since the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel informed Egypt’s coup leader and de facto dictator General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi about the decision during a call Wednesday afternoon. American officials described the conversation as friendly and stressed that they valued “continuing a strong relationship with Egypt.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declared that the US has “decided to maintain our relationship with the Egyptian government, while recalibrating our assistance to Egypt to best advance our interests.” She added, “The United States wants to see Egypt succeed, and we believe the US-Egypt partnership will be strongest when Egypt is represented by an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government based on the rule of law, fundamental freedoms and an open and competitive economy.”
Speaking to reporters shortly after arriving in Malaysia, Secretary of State John Kerry sought to reassure the Egyptian regime: “The interim government understands very well our commitment to the success of this government, which we want to see achieve, and by no means is this a withdrawal from our relationship or a severing of our serious commitment to helping the government.”
Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Badr Abdel Atty nevertheless criticized the move, declaring: “The decision was wrong in terms of content and time. It raises serious questions about US readiness to provide stable strategic support to Egyptian security programs amid threats and terrorism challenges it has been facing.”
The US move comes amidst an intensifying crackdown against the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which Washington supported prior to the coup. Only last weekend, Egyptian military and security forces killed over 50 protesters, attacking protests called by the MB-led Anti-Coup Alliance on the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the 1973 October War with Israel.
The same day that the US announced that it would suspend some of its military aid, Social Solidarity Minister Ahmed al-Boraie officially dissolved the MB’s NGO, based on a court ruling which had banned the Muslim Brotherhood and confiscated its properties on September 23. Also on Wednesday, an Egyptian court said Mursi and other leading MB figures will be tried on November 4, on charges of “inciting the killing and torture” of protesters.
Since the military junta took power, it has been organizing a brutal crackdown under the cover of an alleged “fight against terrorism” to crush all resistance to its dictatorial rule. It has killed and arrested thousands of MB supporters and put down two strikes by thousands of workers at Suez Steel and the Scimitar Petroleum Company.
The cut in US military aid—however temporary and limited it may prove to be—reflects concerns inside the Obama administration and among its European allies over the danger of a renewed social explosion in Egypt.
This fear was expressed in a Thursday editorial by the British Guardian titled “Egypt: from bad to worse,” describing Washington’s decision as “welcome and long overdue.” It warned: “Try as he might, General Sisi cannot contain the continued protest against his takeover. Egypt is locked down and its economy is hemorrhaging. The US, and the EU, must speak out, because the situation is untenable.”
In a statement published Wednesday, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, expressed her concern over “last weekend’s violent clashes in Egypt and yesterday’s terror attacks in Sinai and Ismailiya.” She declared, “The clashes show there is clearly a great deal of polarization and mistrust. This can only be overcome if all sides commit to a political process, defined and agreed by Egyptians themselves, that leads to deep and sustainable democracy.”
Behind all the hypocritical phrases about “democracy” and “civilian freedoms” stands the goal of American and European imperialism to install a broader national unity government in Egypt which would be better suited to suppress the working class and push through further social attacks. A European diplomat, commenting on Ashton’s visit to Egypt, said that she “came to see what the officials want to offer for the inclusion of Islamists, because this is the only way forward for sustainable stability.”
However, Ashton—who last week met with al-Sisi, Interim President Adly Mansour, Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi, Amr Moussa (the president of the committee of 50 people tasked with amending the constitution), Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad al-Tayeb, Coptic Pope Tawadros II and members from the MB-led Anti-Coup Alliance—could not reach any agreement.
Highlighting the crisis of imperialism in the Middle East after two years of mass working class struggles in Egypt and Tunisia and imperialist interventions in Libya and Syria, the US and European diplomatic efforts are inflaming regional tensions rather than stabilizing conditions.
Washington’s other main ally in the region, Israel, criticized the US decision to cut military aid to Egypt. Israel’s Minister of International and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz, demanded that Egypt be “strengthened and supported … It’s very important that Egypt stabilize [itself], economically and politically. It’s very important for the world, for the Middle East, and for us, and first and foremost for the Egyptians.”
Currently the Egyptian military is closely coordinating its operations on the Sinai where it is sealing off tunnels to the Gaza strip and killing and arresting alleged Islamist militants.
Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt warned that the Egyptian military might now limit its cooperation with the Israel. “There is much anger. Therefore it may affect badly on the direct ties” between Israel and Egypt, Shaked said. “They [the Egyptians] are likely to punish Israel along with the US.” According to the Washington Post, he added that Israel largely sees the “punitive” aid cutoff as a mistake that will weaken US influence in the Middle East and harm the US-Egypt-Israel alliance.
Some Egyptian officials went so far as to declare that Egypt was better off without US financing and could look for other countries for military aid—including China, Russia or the Persian Gulf oil sheikhdoms.
“This is actually a chance for Egypt to be free of this burden,” said Tahani Al Gabali, the current Vice President of the Supreme Constitutional Court in Egypt. “The US is pressuring Egypt to allow the Brotherhood back into politics and it won’t work. Unfortunately, the current American administration has a failed foreign policy.”
By Dylan Lubao
9 October 2013
John Greyson and Tarek Loubani—Canadians detained by Egypt’s military regime under brutal conditions for two months because they aided wounded anti-government protesters and bore witness to state atrocities—were released from prison early Sunday morning. However, Egyptian authorities are refusing to allow the two to leave the country, saying that they are still being “investigated” on “terrorism-related” charges.
Greyson and Loubani were detained on August 16 and held without charge along with 600 others who had participated in protests that day against the July 3 military coup that overthrew the elected president, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi.
Canada’s Conservative government, which openly opposed the February 2011 revolution that overthrow the US-backed dictator Mubarak and quietly welcomed this summer’s military coup, had for weeks made only tepid calls for Greyson and Loubani’s release. But a protest campaign organized by their families and supported by many in Canada’s artistic community—Greyson is a filmmaker and both he and Loubani are outspoken opponents of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians—forced Conservative Foreign Minister John Baird to publicly state last week that there would be serious consequences for Canada’s relations with Egypt if the two were not promptly released.
John Greyson is a documentary filmmaker. In 2009 he helped to organize a protest against the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) for its adoption of Tel Aviv, Israel, as its “spotlight city.” He and the protest co-organizers exposed TIFF’s “City to City” program as a pro-Israel propaganda campaign that was being used to spin public opinion in favour of Israel in the aftermath of its brutal assault on the Palestinian city of Gaza.
Tarek Loubani is a surgeon from London, Ontario of Palestinian origin.
He and Greyson were arrested at a police checkpoint in Cairo and sent to the Tora Prison, where torture of political opponents of the military regime is routine.
The pair had originally landed in Egypt on August 15 and planned to drive to the Palestinian city of Gaza, where Greyson intended to film Loubani’s volunteer work at a local hospital.
Because the Gaza border crossing was closed, the two decided on the evening of the 16th to investigate the mass protests against the military coup that were taking place at the nearby Ramses Square. The protests were called by the Muslim Brotherhood and were to be violently attacked by security forces.
In a statement dictated to their lawyer from the prison cell where they were then being held, the pair shed light on the protest and its violent suppression, providing a vivid first-hand account of the brutality of the Washington-backed military regime:
“The protest was just starting— peaceful chanting, the faint odour of tear gas, a helicopter lazily circling overhead—when suddenly [we heard] calls of ‘doctor.’ A young man carried by others from God knows where, bleeding from a bullet wound. Tarek snapped into doctor mode… and started to work doing emergency response, trying to save lives, while John did video documentation, shooting a record of the carnage that was unfolding.
“The wounded and dying never stopped coming. Between us, we saw over 50 Egyptians die: students, workers, professionals, professors, all shapes, all ages, unarmed. We later learned the body count for the day was 102.
“We left in the evening when it was safe, trying to get back to our hotel on the Nile. We stopped for ice cream. We couldn’t find a way through the police cordon, though, and finally asked for help at a checkpoint.
“That is when we were arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a ‘Syrian terrorist,’ slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries. Was it our Canadian passports, the footage of Tarek performing CPR or our ice cream wrappers that set them off? They screamed ‘Canadian’ as they kicked and hit us. John had a precisely etched boot-print bruise on his back for a week.”
Along with the over 600 others who were arrested during the August 16 protests, Greyson and Loubani were accused by the military regime, without a shred of evidence, of a list of capital offenses including terrorism and murder.
Their original detention of 45 days was extended until mid-November by the prosecutor’s office, despite the lack of formal charges against them. In response to these anti-democratic maneuvers and their brutal treatment at the hands of the police and prison authorities, Greyson and Loubani went on a two-week hunger strike in mid-September.
Details of their imprisonment were scarce. Their belongings were confiscated upon arrest, including Greyson’s camera equipment and film footage. It is not yet known whether these have been returned, or if Greyson’s footage, with potentially important evidence of military atrocities, has been destroyed. They shared a small concrete cell with six others, sleeping on the floor and sharing “a single tap of Nile water.” It has been alleged by Greyson’s sister that he was forced to affix his thumbprint and signature to a list of allegations leveled against him by the prosecutor’s office, despite his inability to read the document, which was written in Arabic.
The military dictatorship imposed a strict nighttime curfew on August 14, using it as a pretext to conduct mass arrests of protesters such as that which took place on the 16th. It has also stoked rabid xenophobia, accusing foreigners of instigating the anti-coup protests. Late last month, a teacher from France was arrested in Cairo and sent to a downtown jail, where he was beaten to death by other inmates.
The brutal treatment meted out to Greyson and Loubani by Egypt’s US- and Canadian-backed military regime is clearly aimed at intimidating foreign journalists, film-makers and others from documenting and exposing the ongoing counterrevolution in Egypt. The military, aided by the liberal Tamarod coalition, has outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and brutally suppressed all opposition to its dictatorial rule, killing and wounding thousands of protesting MB supporters and other civilians. It has established a police state to suppress working class opposition to bleak and worsening social conditions—conditions which in the days and weeks prior to the July 3 coup had led millions to take to the streets in protest against the Morsi government.
Canada’s Conservative government supported the July 3 military coup and supports the brutal repression that necessarily followed from it, because, like the Egyptian bourgeoisie, it is terrified of the revolutionary movement and aspirations of the Egyptian working class. Hence its silence on the repression in Egypt, including the killing of Toronto resident Amr Kassem by a military regime sniper in Alexandria this past August, and its indifference to the jailing and torture of Grayson and Loubani.
The author also recommends:
A conversation with organizers of the Toronto film festival protest
[21 November 2009]
Filmmakers, writers protest Toronto festival spotlight on Tel Aviv
[10 September 2009]
Protest against Toronto film festival collusion with Israeli regime continues
[16 September 2009]
By Johannes Stern
20 September 2013
Egyptian police and military forces raided the Giza suburb of Kerdasa on Thursday arresting dozens of alleged Islamist militants.
In a civil war-like atmosphere, a large number of soldiers and policemen backed by armored vehicles and helicopters surrounded the town in the early morning hours, blocking its entrances. Security forces and armed Islamists reportedly exchanged gunfire. A police general named Nabil Farrag was shot when the military moved into the town.
Security forces acted with the utmost brutality. Footage showed special units armed with automatic rifles conducting door-to-door searches and firing tear gas canisters at inhabitants. During the attack, Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif told state media, “security forces will not retreat until Kerdasa is cleansed of all terrorists and criminal nests.”
Kerdasa is known as an Islamist stronghold near the Giza Plateau where the famous Pyramids of Giza are located. It is among the areas where hostility to the army and police has grown the most, after the July 3 military coup against Islamist President Mohamed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
Tensions further escalated after the junta violently assaulted protesters and sit-ins by Mursi supporters across Egypt on August 14, killing hundreds and arresting thousands. The same day Islamists launched a retaliatory attack on Kerdasa’s police station, killing 11 police officers and driving police units out of the town.
According to the BBC, thousands of pro-Mursi protesters marched in Kerdasa the day before the military raid, calling for the downfall of coup leader General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.
Locals speaking to BBC after the assault blamed outsiders for the August 14 attack on the police station and denounced the terror tactics of the junta. “Not everyone in Kerdasa is a terrorist,” one youth said. There are extremist groups, but the town is full of peace-loving people. It’s the authorities who harass us, beat us and arrest us.” Even according to state TV, only three of the 65 suspects arrested were wanted for the attack on the police station.
Nonetheless, Egyptian state television sought to present the Kerdasa raid as part of the military’s so-called “fight against terrorism.” In fact, it is part of the junta’s attempt to silence all opposition to its bloody regime since the July 3 military coup.
In a similar operation on Monday, large numbers of soldiers and police forces stormed the city of Delga in the Southern governorate of Minya to break the resistance of Mursi supporters there. In the past weeks, the city has witnessed continued anti-coup demonstrations. As in Kerdasa, scores of protesters had been killed on August 14 when security forces launched a country-wide assault on pro-Mursi sit-ins.
As part of its bloody offensive, the military regime is also seeking to inflame and exploit growing sectarian divisions between Muslims and Christians.
The recent crackdowns and vicious maneuvers highlight the continuing crisis of the military dictatorship, which was established to suppress the mass working class strikes and protests against Mursi and the Islamists in the days and weeks preceding the coup. After the military takeover, the army has repeatedly moved violently against mass strikes, such as the August Suez steel workers strike, in the name of fighting Islamism.
The junta’s interim government led by military generals and free-market politicians and bankers has no program for the Egyptian masses save massive impoverishment and repression.
Only days before the assaults, the military-backed interim government announced it would extend the state of emergency for at least two months. The overnight curfew in the capital of Cairo and most other major Egyptian cities will also remain in place.
At the same time, the junta is working on a constitution further enshrining its dominance over Egyptian society. The military-nominated Constitutional Expert Committee has decided that the selection of the defense minister should be solely the right of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. It also proposes a ban on the formation of religiously-oriented political parties, which, if implemented, threatens the existence of at least 15 Egyptian parties, including the Freedom and Justice Party, the MB’s political arm.
The past-two-and-a-half months of bloody repression have highlighted again the fact that the struggle for democratic and social rights cannot be outsourced to the US-funded Egyptian army. It can be advanced only by the working class, the main force behind the Egyptian revolution. Financed by US imperialism, the military represents the same fundamental class interests as the Mursi regime, which was backed by Washington before the coup.
Moreover, the junta’s alleged “fight against terror,” which is supported by the entire liberal and pseudo-left milieu in Egypt, will in the long run only strengthen the reactionary Islamist forces.
According to an article in the New York Times a local leader of the ultra-conservative al-Gama’a al-Islamiya commented on the mass arrests and shootings of Islamists in Degla: “If the coup leaders think the anger is going to fade they are wrong, because we are gaining support every day.”
A struggle against the renewed military dictatorship and the threat of ever more violent sectarian fighting must be directed not only against the junta and the MB, but also against the affluent liberal and pseudo-left milieu in Egypt which constitutes the new social basis for military rule. Most of the liberal and pseudo-left groups which first helped to channel the mass working class discontent behind the military are now the most aggressive supporters of a new police state.
According to an Ahram Online report most “left” and liberal parties pledged their “full support” for an extended state of emergency at a meeting with interim president Adly Mansour on September 15. The parties in attendance included the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Tagammu Party, the Free Egyptians Party, the Rebel Movement (Tamarod), the Constitution Party, the Democratic Front Party and the Conference Party.
By Johannes Stern
4 September 2013
Two months after the July 3 military coup the US-backed Egyptian junta is continuing its crackdown against all opposition, both from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and from the working class.
On Tuesday a Cairo court ordered Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr and three other TV channels, Al-Yarmouk, Al-Quds and Ahrar 25 to shut down on charges of posing a threat to national security. Officials claimed that the channels were linked to Islamists and were reporting one-sidedly in favor of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Mursi. On Monday, a court ordered the permanent closure of the Salafist Al- Hafez channel. Already on Sunday three Al-Jazeera reporters had been deported by Egyptian security forces.
In a statement published on Tuesday, Reporters Without Borders condemned the crackdown against journalists and media professionals since the coup. According to the report, Egyptian authorities have censored ten media channels and raided six offices. Five journalists were killed, 80 others arbitrarily arrested, and 40 assaulted by police or thugs cooperating with the security forces.
Over the weekend, security forces dispersed nationwide protests called by the MB’s National Coalition to Support Legitimacy, killing at least eight demonstrators and wounding 221 according to official numbers. Ahead of the protests, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior had announced it would use live ammunition against protesters in “legitimate self-defense.”
In the past two months the military junta headed by coup-leader General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi has organized mass killings and arrests of thousands of protesters. Seif Abdel Fattah, a former Mursi advisor and political science professor at Cairo University, accused the junta of the “murder of more than 3000 Egyptians who were guilty of nothing other than opposing the coup.”
Security forces continue to round up the MB’s leadership. On Monday, special units detained Saad El-Husseini, the former governor of Kafr El-Sheikh, in a house in New Cairo. On Tuesday, Mostafa Isaa, a well-known MB leader and former governor of Minya was arrested.
The same day an Egyptian military court sentenced a Brotherhood member to life imprisonment while forty-eight others received sentences of between five to fifteen years. The defendants were accused of “shooting and adopting violent means” against the army in the port city of Suez on August 14, the day when the military and Central Security Forces violently assaulted protests and sit-ins by Mursi supporters across Egypt.
Deposed president Mursi himself will be tried at a criminal court in Cairo on charges “of committing acts of violence and inciting killing and thuggery” alongside with other leading MB figures such as the MB’s Supreme Guide Mohamed al-Badie according to Egypt’s state news agency MENA.
On the Sinai, the army continued its so-called offensive against “terrorism.’’ On Tuesday it reportedly killed eight and injured 15 alleged Islamist militants in an air raid by four Apache attack helicopters.
The ultimate goal of the junta’s so-called “war against terrorism” is to silence and suppress any resistance against its attempts to restore the military-backed dictatorship that existed prior to the Egyptian revolution under the rule of former dictator Hosni Mubarak. Ultimately, the central target of the junta is the working class, which was the main force behind the Egyptian revolution.
When the army violently attacked a strike of 2,100 steel workers at Suez Steel on August 12, it sought to justify the attack on grounds that “Islamists” were behind the strike. An army statement published at the time claimed that “infiltrating elements” who were “exploiters of religion” tried to poison workers “in the name of religion.”
There are increasing attacks on strikes and working class protests throughout Egypt. On August 17 a strike at the Scimitar Petroleum Company was violently dispersed.
In recent days the military has deployed APC’s around the Misr Textile Company in Mahalla, where thousands of workers were on strike last week.
The anti-working class character of the coup was recently underscored by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, who financed and supported the right-wing Tamarod conspiracy, the main mechanism for the Egyptian bourgeoisie to channel mass discontent against Mursi and the MB behind the military. On his Twitter account last Saturday, he demanded a ban for “protests and sit-ins for two years to take our breath and build our state.”
Recently, the New York Times published an article by David D. Kirkpatrick titled “Egypt Widens Crackdown and Meaning of ‘Islamist’’’ which gives a glimpse of the apparatus of terror and fear which is being reinstalled in Egypt.
Kirkpatrick writes: “Police abuses and politicized prosecutions are hardly new in Egypt, and they did not stop under Mr. Morsi. But since the military takeover last month, some rights activists say, the authorities are acting with a sense of impunity exceeding even the period before the 2011 revolt against Hosni Mubarak.”
He continues: “The government installed by Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi has renewed the Mubarak-era state of emergency removing all rights to due process or protections against police abuse. And police officials have pronounced themselves ‘vindicated.’ They say the new government’s claim that it is battling Islamist violence corroborates what they have been saying all along: that it was Islamists, not the police, who killed protesters before Mr. Mubarak’s ouster.”
Kirkpatrick points to the fact, that the term “Islamist” is used to persecute everyone opposed to the regime and particularly striking workers who are being labeled as “terrorists” or “agents of the MB.”
The most fervent supporters of these plans to put an end to all protests and strikes are amongst the left and liberal affluent middle class layers and their political organizations. They first collaborated with Sawiris and the Tamarod campaign and now stand ready to actively suppress the working class.
Kamal Abu Eita, the new Egyptian minister of manpower and former leader of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU), combined his entry into the military backed government with demand that workers end all strikes and become “champions of production.” When the military put down the Suez Steel strike, he joined the propaganda campaign and claimed that MB members were inciting strikes.
Reflecting the class interests of an affluent middle class layer whose interests are bound up with those of imperialism and international finance capital, they are backing a military dictatorship to shield them from the threat of a socialist revolution in Egypt.
Hamdeen Sabahi, a Nasserite politician and former presidential candidate told Reuters last weekend that “General Sisi is a popular hero par excellence, and if he decides to enter the elections he is the most popular at the moment.”
The enthusiasm of the affluent liberal left milieu for the Sisi and the military junta is only equaled by that of the international banks. Recently a German fund manager at Landesbank Berlin, Lutz Roehmeyer, told Bloomberg: “I’m comfortable with this kind of military regime. We’ve seen this from time to time in emerging markets, and it usually serves as a force of stabilization.”
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