See No Evil: Egypt's Military Council Tries to Undo the Revolution

More than a month ago the European television channel Arte contacted me and said they wanted to make a one-hour program about my literary work. Arte is one of the most important cultural channels in France and its decision to devote a whole show to an Egyptian writer is no doubt good for me and for Egyptian literature.

The French journalists arrived at my clinic in Garden City on time and I noticed that they were acting strangely. They were exhausted and showed signs of anxiety. They told me they had stayed the night at the Ismailia Hotel, which overlooks Tahrir Square, a revolutionary icon now known across the world. They were awoken by the sound of gunfire and saw with their own eyes the security forces and police firing at demonstrators, attacking them brutally, and assaulting the women among them (as we have all seen). They took their cameras out and started filming the attack. Half an hour later a group of thugs broke down their door and started to hit them with iron bars. They broke some of the cameras and would not stop until the journalists assured them that they no longer had any footage of the attacks on the demonstrators.

They believed the authorities had organized the attack on them, so they saw no point in making a formal complaint to them. The journalists insisted on going ahead with the interview, however. After finishing the first segment, I went down with them to go to a boat they had hired to take us along the Nile. Outside, people were waiting for us. One of them came up to me and said, “Don’t speak to these foreigners. They’re spies.”

“They’re not spies,” I said. “They’re respectable French journalists and they have the permits they need to film in the street.”

He started shouting vile insults at me, and had not the local residents intervened he and his friends would have attacked us. It was clear that the attack was planned. I filed a report on the incident in the police station and then went with the French television team to film the rest of the show, which aired on January 8th. Two days later, I was on my way home when neighbors called me and warned me that the same person who tried to attack me and my French guests was standing in front of the house. Some twenty people were insulting me and threatening to attack, in an attempt to intimidate my family. The neighbors intervened once again and sent them off.

The same evening a female demonstrator called Hadir Makkawi appeared on television with talk-show host Wael el-Abrashi to say that the military police had arrested her, threatened to give her electric shocks, and forced her to make a statement on video accusing me and my revolutionary friend Khaled Youssef of inciting her and her colleagues to stage a sit-in and carry out acts of vandalism. The woman did what they asked but then felt guilty about it and contacted the media to tell them the truth. The very same evening an announcer with close ties to the security agencies said on air that after the incident in which demonstrators were given poisoned sandwiches, I had gone to the sit-in at the Cabinet offices and incited the protesters to break the cameras that were filming them from the Cabinet building.

The allegation was completely fabricated. Although I went to the sit-in in solidarity with the participants several times and had debates with them—I thought they were among the bravest and noblest of Egypt’s youth—I did not go after the poisoned sandwich incident. The broadcaster is mistaken and the State Security officer who gave him this pathetic story has a poor imagination.

The next day, a state-owned newspaper wrote that there was a plot to assassinate me, along with a group of revolutionaries. The story was strange because it said the plan to assassinate me would be carried out by Syrian and Iranian agents and the source for the story was a White House official. I find it hard to believe that either the Iranian regime, which is at odds with the West over its nuclear program, or the Syrian regime, which is killing its own people and fighting its last battle for survival, can find the time or the energy to kill Egyptians. It’s even more bizarre that a White House official should ignore the big international newspapers and contact a journalist at an Egyptian newspaper to give him this exclusive scoop. The next day a state-owned magazine put a photograph of me and some of my colleagues on its front cover under the banner headline “The Inciters.”

The military council, with help from State Security and their agents in the media, is fighting hard to terrorize everyone who has criticized the crimes that have been committed against demonstrators. The aim is to discredit and intimidate critics of the military council’s policies. What they want is that we should not believe our eyes, in order to please the military council. What they want is that we should see Egyptian women dragged along the ground and abused by soldiers, that we should see protesters mown down by live ammunition, and that we should then stay silent, as if we had seen nothing. What they want is that we should ignore our consciences and say nothing about these crimes, just to win favor with the military council.

That will never happen. We will not forget the heinous crimes the soldiers committed against peaceful protesters in Maspero, in Mohamed Mahmoud Street, and outside the Cabinet offices. All these massacres have been recorded and the military council alone is responsible for them. We shall continue to say this truth. The military council can do whatever it wants but our lives can never be more valuable than the lives of the young Egyptian revolutionaries that Hosni Mubarak killed and that the military council has continued to kill.

What the military council is doing is not strange or mysterious. It’s carrying out a clear plan to contain and then undo the revolution, as if it never happened. The same plan has been applied in other countries in all its details. In 1989, the Romanian people rose up against the tyrant Ceausescu and the army refused to help the tyrant. He was tried and the revolutionaries executed him and his wife Elena, but during the transitional period one of Ceausescu’s former aides, Ion Iliescu, came to power. At first Iliescu praised and celebrated the revolution, but subsequently law and order broke down drastically in Romania (it later transpired that this was planned by Iliescu). So while the Romanian revolution was once a source of pride, it became the object of ridicule and sarcasm. The Romanians carried out a violent revolution and many of them were killed, but in the end instead of the tyrant Ceausescu, his aide Iliescu ended up in power.

General Ahmed Shafik is playing the role of Iliescu in the Egyptian version now. Workers in the Ministry of Civil Aviation submitted 42 complaints against him, accusing him of corruption and wasting public money. But the public prosecutor has not looked into the complaints since March, and now Ahmed Shafik is leading a campaign to take over as president and see that the Egyptian revolution ends—just as the Romanian revolution ended.

No fair-minded person, whatever his political inclinations, can watch women dragged along the ground and abused, and demonstrators shot dead, without condemning the military council. Here I would like to quote one of the great warriors in the armed forces, retired commando General Hamdi el-Shorbagi, who sent a letter to the military council on his Facebook page. The general says that the repression of Egyptian demonstrations is the work of a mentally ill minority of officers and men who may have authority but have neither conscience nor the honor of their profession. The general writes that he personally saw the capture of 28 Israeli soldiers in the war of October 1973 and how the Egyptian army treated them kindly. But when it comes to killing Egyptians and abusing Egyptian women, General Shorbagi calls such behavior a disgrace to the Egyptian army.    

What is to be done now?

A committee must be formed to investigate the massacres against demonstrators by police and army personnel. It must be completely independent of the state, which is still subject to the Mubarak regime. The committee must be chaired by an independent judge known to be impartial, such as Zakaria Abdel Aziz, Ashraf el-Baroudi, or Mahmoud el-Khodeiri, and the committee must have the right to question both military personnel and civilians. This committee will ensure justice is served and punish those who committed crimes against the Egyptian people. 

Despite my reservations about the elections, the next People’s Assembly is the only elected body that represents the will of the people, so it must be given absolute authority to form a government to replace the Ganzoury government that has been imposed on the people.

Presidential elections must be brought forward because the situation in Egypt is now so critical that it can be dealt with only by transferring power from the military council to an elected president.

Everyone who wants to undo the revolution has to realize that millions of Egyptians who rose up for the sake of freedom will not allow their revolution to be undone or stolen. The revolution will triumph, God willing, so that Egypt can set out into the future. 


Photo Credit: Jerry Jackson

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