Monday,27 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)
Monday,27 May, 2019
Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Three years on

Amany Maged reviews the third anniversary of the breakup of the Rabaa Square sit-in

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Muslim Brothers and their allies had nothing to cheer about on the third anniversary of the breakup of the sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Nahda Squares. They produced some proclamations here and there and the occasional shocking Tweet but they were unable to stir unrest or demonstrations.

The occasion did trigger flashbacks. The Egyptian press took the opportunity to remind the public, through text and gruesome imagery, of the damage caused by the two sit-ins, their impact on an already strained economy, the crimes perpetrated by the occupiers of the squares and the charred and buried bodies found after the sit-ins were cleared.

Security forces took precautions in anticipation of violence on the occasion of the anniversary of the breakup of the sit-ins. Security was tightened around public buildings, vital facilities, police stations and major squares. Special forces, mobile patrols and explosives teams and police dogs were mobilised and checkpoints set up at crucial intersections.

Religious officials made their own preparations. The Extremist Views and Takfiri Fatwas Observatory, a department under the Egyptian Fatwa Authority, issued a report which appeared on the anniversary of the breakup of the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins cautioning that no movement or organisation will succeed in undermining the foundations of the state by using religious pretexts to foment violence. The report also argued that events before, during and after the breakup of the sit-ins confirm that society is capable of repelling attempts by extremist groups parading beneath the banner of political Islam to spread violence and hatred.

“The leaders of the sit-ins at Rabaa and Nahda were bent on mobilising their followers and supporters against the state and society by spouting a stream of fatwas that justified insurrection against the state, rebellion against society and violence, which they marketed as a kind of legitimate jihad. Subsequently, most of them renounced those violent fatwas, having realised how solid the Egyptian state and society is. In fact, many of them claimed to have been innocent of issuing calls to violence or participating in the sit-ins, leaving the people young and old who had been deceived by them to become the victims of the ambitions and self-serving political interests of groups that exploited religion in order to reach power.”

The report added that the majority of Brotherhood leaders fled abroad to continue their incitement to violence against the Egyptian state and society. “They took advantage of difficult circumstances in order to spread their poison, with the collaboration of foreign forces that are hostile to the Egyptian state and its national and regional role.”

  The report called for the full weight of the law to be brought down on takfiri groups and extremists who strive to undermine the security and stability of the country and sap the energies of its security forces. It concluded that “the nation will prevail and the extremist groups and militias will cease to exist as long as society remains cohesive and stands in solidarity with and in support of its national institutions.”

The Muslim Brotherhood marked the anniversary with predictable slogans that could be followed on familiar hashtags. The one big surprise was Ahmed Al-Mogheir’s admission that the Rabaa sit-in, contrary to Brotherhood claims, was not “peaceful” but armed and militarised. Al-Mogheir, a Muslim Brotherhood member close to the group's strongman Khayrat Al-Shater and known in the media as “Al-Shater’s boy”, issued this confession on 14 August, the date of the third anniversary of the breakup of the sit-in.

“Was the Rabaa sit-in armed?” Al-Mogheir asked on his Facebook page. “The answer may come as a shock to many. Yes, it was armed or presumed to have been armed. Hold on a second if you’re one of those who think it was armed with faith, or with the determination of the youth, or even with wooden sticks. No, that is not what I mean. I’m talking about firearms: Kalashnikovs, guns, ammunition, grenades, Molotov cocktails and maybe even more. There were enough weapons at Rabaa to hold off the Interior Ministry.”

So what happened?

Al-Mogheir goes on to explain that “two days before the massacre, 90 per cent of these weapons had been taken out of Rabaa. They were removed thanks to the treachery of an [Brotherhood] official, one of ‘our brothers at the top’. But that’s another story that I’ll tell you another day, hopefully.”

 The Egyptian media rejoiced at this admission which, by the time Al-Ahram Weekly went to press, had not yet elicited a single response from the Brotherhood.

The group’s leadership issued a customary statement in which it tried to rally the international community against Egypt and encourage it to bring those responsible for the breakup of the sit-in to justice. The statement reiterated the demand for the reinstatement of Mohamed Morsi: “We will not compromise on the legitimacy of President Mohamed Morsi, the president of all Egyptians,” the statement proclaimed. It also claimed that there were pro-Morsi demonstrations in Egypt’s streets and squares.

Also to mark the third anniversary of the dispersal of Rabaa, the pro-Brotherhood Al-Watan Party issued a statement declaring that the “sit-in was peaceful, from the first day to the very last moment”. It continued: “The demonstrators in Rabaa were a mixture of all the Egyptian people. Muslim Brotherhood members constituted less than a quarter of the total. They refused to accept the coup against the will of the people, the dismissal of a popularly elected president and the dissolution of parliamentary assemblies formed through fair elections… The vast majority of the people at Rabaa were there to safeguard the constitution and the sovereignty of law. They only wanted freedom and dignity for the nation. They only called for justice.”

The Watan Party, in its statement, also called for a new investigation into the events at the Republican Guard building, the breakup of the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins, the violence at Al-Fath Mosque and other incidents, and demanded the immediate release of prisoners of conscience and political detainees.

The International Muslim Brotherhood organised a conference in Turkey. The group’s Secretary General Mahmoud Hussein attended, seeking to use the conference as an opportunity to stoke an international campaign against Egypt. He called on the international community to launch an investigation into the breakup of the Rabaa sit-in and attacked the 30 June Revolution.

The Turkish authorities used the anniversary of the breakup of Rabaa to renew their attack against Egypt and reconfirm their support for the terrorist Brotherhood organisation. Turkey’s state-run news agency tried to implicate the UN in the anti-Egypt campaign, reporting that Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, had said Ban Ki-moon believes it’s important to conduct a full investigation into the deaths of hundreds of civilians during the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in. The news agency, which is controlled by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also attributed remarks to Ban Ki-moon regarding the “importance of respecting the right to peaceful protest and assembly” during demonstrations which the Brotherhood called for on the occasion of the third anniversary of the breakup of the sit-ins.

Interestingly, the UN Website, in Arabic and English, published no remarks by the Secretary-General or his official spokesperson regarding the breakup of the sit-ins.

Turkish authorities also gave permission to members of the Brotherhood in Turkey to organise a “camp” in the city of Bolu to commemorate the breakup, according to the Anatolian news agency.

The anniversary of the breakup of the sit-in occasioned responses from rights organisations. Salma Ashraf of Human Rights Monitor said, “the Egyptian judiciary is no longer free and fair. It is steered and receives its instructions from the Interior Ministry and relies on security investigations into accusations directed against the security establishment and based on independent reports.”

In an interview with Al Ashraf added that the judiciary is ignoring thousands of complaints filed with the public prosecutor and the courts by victims of injustice. “Any verdict issued by the courts is invalid given the lack of judicial autonomy and the absence of even minimal criteria for a fair trial,” she said.

In sum, while the Brotherhood secured some presence in the media it was absent from the street. Perhaps this was only to be expected. The group is splintered as never before and much else has changed in three years. Events have caused some Brothers to change their rhetoric on matters they once claimed were unshakable principles, principles for which hundreds of young men were encouraged to sacrifice their lives, perpetrate violence and destruction, attack public buildings and work to destabilise society.

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