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The day we didn't talk

#Ennahdha Party Statement on #Egypt Massacre
Tunis, 14 August 2013

The coup authorities in Egypt have committed a massacre against peaceful protesters in Cairo squares and in other cities across Egypt, killing hundreds and injuring thousands, including women and children. 

Ennahdha Party, which is following with pain and great concern the ongoing crime:

1. Strongly condemns this crime against the people of Egypt and its revolution, and condemns the grave violations against women, children and other peaceful civilians.

2. Express its complete solidarity with the Egyptian people and their right to regain their freedom and their rejection of the overturning of their will.

3. Calls on all Egyptian, regional and international parties to assume their responsibilities in ending this terrible crime and supporting the Egyptian people's struggle against the coup.

Ennahdha Party
Rached Ghannouchi

For some reason, it took this for me to understand my own position on what we have seen of Egypt since August 14th. Even if I accept that the clearing of the sit-ins in Raba'a al- Adaweyya, Al-Nahda Square and other locations had to be broken up at some point, and that the Musilim Brothers (MB) are not honest or fair players of the dirty political game, the violence seen over the last days continues to baffle and disgust me, as does the support it is receiving from parts of the Egyptian population. 

A lot of news arrived once the police and army entered the camps at Raba'a and AlNahda squares. We saw people with firearms, rolling out of houses, ducking behind trees and makeshift walls, clearing tanks rolling through tents and those same walls, corpses. Burnt or shot, they symbolise the ultimate failure of the Egyptian state in its duty to keep its citizens, no matter what their political affiliation or opinion, alive, unless judged otherwise by a court of law, as the death penalty is still in force. 

It cannot be disputed, following the trail of pictoral evidence that accompanies the events, that the demonstrators in the camp were armed and did fire shots at the state security forces. And yet, as stated by a coalition of undersigning Human rights groups "… some participants in the sit-in, and it’s leaders committed criminal acts, were in possession of weapons, and engaged in violence does not give the security authorities a license to impose collective punishment and use excessive force when dispersing the sit-in, according to international standards for the right of peaceful assembly."

One image that was missing.  A direct, official warning that the sit-ins were going to be cleared imminently was not issued, giving the protesters no occasion to respond verbally or in action before the bulldozer tanks rode in. The one report that would have, in my eyes, justified the violence I witnessed, through the eyes of citizen and professional media, would have been a confirmed killing of 
policemen or army personnel on site. Even with that precedent, a death toll of ca. 800 people and counting is not acceptable by any standard, in, as Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawy puts it, "a self-respecting country".  

Even with the long run-up to the clearing, the warnings issued in state and other media, threats and international mediation efforts, no direct contact, willing or forced, between the current rulers of Egypt and the Muslim Brothers (and of course sisters) at the sit- ins, seems to have been attempted.

The violence and killing that ensued between two armed parties, could have been avoided. Other options were discussed says Mohammad Baradie in his resignation letter. Even if foreign intervention at this point is questionable, some kind of deal had been reached with representatives of the MB. Even if it would have been a shady deal involving the UAE, Qatar, the US and the EU, it would have been preferable to this instance of state violence.  

The question that arises from the Prime Ministers comment that the police showed restraint in storming the camp in such fashion. If that was restraint, then real police brutality must come in doses of F16s dropping bombs on protesters. The method of clearing of the Raba'a El Adaweyya camps was a clear signal to anyone intending to take to the streets in protest hereafter- it will be met with state violence, arrest and the label of terrorism. 

Even if the Muslim Brotherhoods connection to terrorism and terror groups is complicated, yet documented, for their base supporters to be killed, or even imprisoned on charges of terrorism, they have to be individually judged to be terrorists by a court of law. One could reason what we have seen as a preventive strike against possible terrorist acts. They ensued- en masse, after the walls of the camps were breached turns what could have been an opportunity for reconciliation and dialogue into an act that incited violence on a grand scale. 

In the later hours of the afternoon, a curfew was announced, adding to the already atmosphere of impeding danger and gloom. It gladdens me to hear of people who broke the curfew to go about their everyday lives- an indicator that some things are still all right. Meanwhile, street fights erupted all over the country, reports of churches burning down. In an already polarised situation, the spark of perceived injustice set off the worst fears of many. 

Whether these are an intended action, or simply a gross miscalculation of the reaction of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood is debatable. The number of burnt churches and statements of regret not backed up by the state securing the objects of regret point to  the intentional creation of a narrative in which the Muslim Brotherhood and its cohorts are all crazed terrorists who will inevitably turn the country into a totalitarian Islamic state if left in power. In this narrative a repressive state, backed by a strong and unflinching military is the only way to restore order to the country. 

The instatement of  19 former army and police personel as new governors points to the fact that, after establishing itself as the main political power in the country, the army and remnants of the former regime are trying to cement their position in the political landscape. They are doing this to uphold their interests in the country, the industry of a military that controls 40% of the countries economy and the status of those who have built themselves up under Mubaraks rule. If one of the goals of January 25th is a change in the regime that rules Egypt, events since the 30th of June undermine that goal.

In a discussion on the state of Egypt, right after the ouster of Mr. Morsi, I said "The Army is a Language all Egyptians understand". The hope was that by bringing the army, a benevolent institution in the eyes of many Egyptians, into play, further conflict might be avoided. Indeed, the images on the 3rd of July, and the rhetoric of conciliation surrounding the initial hours after the overthrow of the MB-led governement indicated a path to conciliation and inclusion. It soon became apparent, through the lack of any meaningful dialogue, that the precarious state of diplomacy with the Muslim Brothers, already fueled by mistrust and past lies, needed but a spark to escalate. It is not the first time a military Junta pays lip service to democracy, and it would appear inclusion, dialogue and deescalation are not in that particular vocabluary. 

In stead, it attempts to control the narrative of the developments. Watching Egyptian state TV, or OnTV, a war on terror is being reported. Watching Al-Jazeera (Egypt), the plight of the oppressed MB's trapped by the forces of repression. You would think, once again, that Egypt is made up of two massive camps warring on each other, with one side condoning the war-like cirumstances in which the sit-ins were stormed and the other calling for armed Jihad against the non-believers. The two binaries certainly exist, are vocal and reported in their opinions and present ready targets for interviews, reports and spin, but do not represent everyone. There is a frequently overlooked voice of, if not reason, at least a moderate opinion that sees the faults in both camps and the long- term damage that is being done to the country as a whole.

Khalid Abdalla, as an example of that voice, condemns both sides of the violence and states that, as long as you are not part of an organised group, your voice will not be heard. In stead, many individual voices gather, uncoordinated, to protest the violence. "The act of building the state anew" requires more than sit-ins and sustained protests on the street. It requires, as does a counter- revolution, a strategy and a plan, whether it is a five-year plan, a business model or assembly instructions. And maybe this is where most opportunities were squandered by those who took to the streets on January 25th, allowing for the current developments.

The regime the revolution set out to remove is rapidly creeping back into government, the Islamists being forced back into the underground, most recently by presidential decree 397, removing the Muslim Brotherhoods offical status and branding it a terrorist organisation, criminalising any member of the group, resetting the Egyptian political landscape to the shape it took in the 1990's, with underground Islamist groups, forbidden from political participation, carried out numerous acts of terrorism, with the 1997 killings at the Temple of Hatshepsut near Luxor as one of the most memorable. 

No longer are calls for bread, freedom and social justice, the famous karama, heard. Instead, we hear islameyya, gunfire, allahu akbar and terrorist. As yet, i have not seen the required number of badly made charts to convince me that every muslim brother is a terrorist. While some of the actions and arrests by the police and armed forces are very probably justified, the level of violence, unseen in modern Egyptian history, does not inspire much confidence in state protection, or the rule of law in the country. A police that does not hesitate to use live amunition, conduct mass arrests without proof, collides with militias to achieve its aims is a repressive political instrument, unchecked by courts or law. 

In the months prior to Morsis deposal, an important process had begun in the minds of many egyptians: a reflection on identity, impossible in the midst of rapid development. Questions of personal politics, relation to religion, the state of Egypt and a suitable form of politics being formulated by many. Some had even begun to formulate answers to these questions. After the euphoria, the elections, the politics of the last two years, dissatisfaction with the political process and a disconnect from the state and the islamic monoculture it appeared to create led many to consider their individual relation to all of the above.

The polarising and disruptive events of the last days force an answer to those questions, and the politics that come with it. Unfortunately, the official answer seems to be that you have the choice between continuing your life as a citizen in a security apparatus, or hiding yourself and your stereotypical beard away. To be a loyal Egyptian citizen, you once again have to fear. 

The note by the Tunisain Al-Nahda party caught my attention mainly because earlier in the day, rumors of a suggestion of a non-partisan government with no political motivation to rule Tunis had been suggested in order to get the country out of its current, comparable state of political stagnation and polarisation


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