Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1314, (6 - 12 October 2016)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1314, (6 - 12 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Debunking Dunk

Amany Maged on the Muslim Brotherhood and calls for protests against worsening economic conditions

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The movement Dunk, which means hardship, emerged two years ago and as time passed it grew in tandem with rising prices. Recently the movement called for a “revolution of the poor”, to be staged on 11 November, and the hashtag thawrat al-ghalaba (revolution of the wretched) has appeared on social networking sites.

The hashtag, which first appeared in 2014 on Twitter accounts operated by Muslim Brotherhood e-brigades, has acquired popularity on accounts that have nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood or its affiliates. Dunk denies any connection with individual political factions though a number of Brotherhood webpages have expressed support of the movement’s actions.

At one point the movement called on the public to refuse to pay electricity bills in protest against frequent power cuts. More recently, it has called for acts of civil disobedience in the run up to the November protest.

Last month’s demonstration by mothers to protest shortages of baby formula has triggered renewed calls for civil disobedience. Though the Muslim Brotherhood denies it had anything to do with the calls for a march of the poor a video clip by Yasser Al-Omda, originator of the march of the poor hashtag, confirms the group’s connection. In the video, aired on the Mekameleen channel, Al-Omda claims responsibility for initiating the current anti-government campaign. Al-Omda, who works for the Brotherhood-affiliated Al-Sharq TV channel, has lived in Turkey for some time. Sources close to him say he founded Dunk with Turkish support.

Al-Omda regularly lists data highlighting the plight of the poor. He has also released video clips denying any connection with the Brotherhood though he regularly defends the group.

After Dunk called for demonstrations on 11 November, Egyptian TV host Ahmed Moussa attacked the movement, repeating claims it was connected with the Muslim Brotherhood.  In response Al-Omda released a short video to refute the charges.

The pro-Mohamed Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL) has released a statement in support of  the demonstration. “The wrath of the poor is coming,” said the NASL statement. The NASL then pledged its “commitment to the demands of the January Revolution, the rights of the martyrs and the will of the people”. The statement stressed the need for greater “participation in building the nation and safeguarding its national security” and demanded the “removal of the army from politics, power and the conflict over wealth”.

Some analysts believe the NASL statement will weaken the appeal of the Dunk movement. They argue that the NASL’s affiliations with the Muslim Brotherhood will alienate a majority of the public. Other observers say the statement could strengthen the revolution of the poor by opening the doors to other opposition movements.

In remarks to the press Mohamed Al-Sharqawi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s US bureau, described calls for a march of the poor as “political lunacy”. He urged MB members not to take part in a protest that is “weak and will fail even before it begins”. Yet some Muslim Brothers, who have already staged very small marches in back streets to protest current economic conditions, have begun to advocate participating in the so-called “revolution of the poor”.

The Dunk movement is using unconventional means to garner publicity. They include scribbling slogans on five and ten pound notes that are in circulation.

Although the march is just a month away the campaign has not attracted public support. People may complain of soaring inflation, a collapsing currency and increased taxes but they also fear Egypt turning into a failed state like Syria, Iraq or Libya. And the Egyptian authorities have vowed treat demonstrators with an iron fist.

Security authorities have instituted a number of measures in order to eliminate those responsible for the Muslim Brotherhood’s e-brigades. Late last week security agencies raided a terrorist den in the Cairo district of Maadi during which leader of the Brotherhood’s military wing Mohamed Kamal was killed. Kamal was responsible for militant operations at a national level and was the general supervisor of the Helwan Brigades. He is alleged to have been involved in the assassination of public prosecutor Hisham Barakat and the recent attempted assassination of Assistant General Public Prosecutor Zakariya Abdel-Aziz.

It is unlikely that the Muslim Brotherhood will take part in the “revolution of the poor” on an official level but the group is deeply divided. The old guard is opposed but younger members could well feel it is their duty to participate. They are also eager to ally with other opposition movements though they are well aware the opposition is incapable of confronting the security forces or even of organising effective protests.

The Brotherhood’s leadership realises that calls for revolution remain unrealistic. The security forces will not permit another uprising or mass marches. Reports suggest the group’s leaders are still interested in working out some deal with the state, which helps explain why Brotherhood leaders in the US have called the planned march an act of “political lunacy”.

Many analysts expect the Brotherhood to keep a low profile as far as the “revolution of the poor” is concerned, though this does not preclude group members acting behind the scenes to try and stoke resentment among the public over economic conditions.

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