Saturday,25 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1366, (26 October - 1 November 2017)
Saturday,25 May, 2019
Issue 1366, (26 October - 1 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Honouring fallen heroes

Upholding the pillars of democracy is the best way of commemorating Egypt’s fallen heroes in the war on terrorism, writes Hany Ghoraba

The war on terrorism never ceases to remind us that it is not over. This was manifested on 20 October when a group of terrorists killed members of the Egyptian police special forces during a raid on their hideout on the Oases Road in Giza. An exchange of fire led to the deaths of 16 Egyptian police and the injury of 13 others, while the terrorists suffered a death toll of 15 and counting. A combined force of police and army personnel is still scanning the area about 150km south of Cairo. 

The police heroes fought gallantly and did not hesitate to make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of protecting their nation and fellow citizens. Their sacrifices were among the countless others that the Egyptian army and police have made over the past four years. Despite the terrorist attacks that have taken place, the thousands of casualties among these brave forces have led to resounding successes in the larger war on terrorism. For every fallen hero, dozens of terrorists have been killed or captured, thus ensuring the protection of the nation against terrorist threats. 

According to counter-terrorism expert and member of the Egyptian Higher Council for Counterterrorism Khaled Okasha, the raid on the terrorist cell thwarted the threat of further terrorist attacks in the governorates of Cairo, Giza, Fayoum, Beni Sweif and Minya. The dead heroes thus sacrificed themselves in order that these attacks might not occur. Yet, while the ongoing war in Sinai may be in its final stages, it is still not over. 

These heroes from the ranks of the Egyptian army and police face unspeakable ordeals to counter terrorist attacks orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood organisation in conjunction with local terrorist groups such as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, Hasm and the Libyan chapter of the Islamic State (IS). These groups are sponsored and funded by Islamist regimes such as the Turkey of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatar. The Egyptian military and police heroes are well aware of the dangers and consequences of fighting this existential war and its necessity for the national security of Egypt. 

Epic stories of bravery have been seen on the news. Among them there has been a famous video clip of an Egyptian tank crew that managed to react swiftly to stop an advancing suicide car-bomber before his vehicle exploded at a security check point which could have killed dozens of civilians. Their brave move to halt the car, knowing that it would explode near the vulnerable lower part of their tank, saved dozens of lives. 

This story and that of the Oasis Road are just two of the many that have occurred over the past four years. Equally brave are the families, wives and siblings of these heroes. They have said how shattered and heartbroken they have felt as a result of losing their sons, especially young officers or cadets, but they have also said that their sacrifices were in a noble cause — the survival of the Egyptian nation. For these brave families, there is no greater honour than protecting the nation with their precious lives. Accordingly, it is time for the nation to honour and commemorate these brave souls in a proper fashion.  

Naming a major square, street or school after one of Egypt’s fallen heroes would be a proper gesture of gratitude to commemorate the deeds of Egypt’s heroes. However, in order to truly honour the memory of these heroes, more practical and decisive actions are required. The true commemoration of these heroes would be through developing the country that they dreamed of living in and for which they sacrificed their lives. There are many methods to attain this goal, starting with the vow never to repeat the historical mistakes that led to this brutal war on terrorism which they have sacrificed their lives to win. 

Among these methods is shunning any calls for reconciliation with the Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, as this group is the greatest enemy of the Egyptian nation in modern times. There should also be effective laws criminalising incitement and sectarianism, which are the breeding ground of terrorism. Careful plans should be drawn up to reform religious discourse, drawing on the contributions of clerics, thinkers, journalists, artists and all those who can contribute effectively towards this goal. 

It should also be acknowledged that attempts to appease the radicals through more conservative laws that oppose freedom have proven to be counter-productive and unconstitutional. The nation will only truly develop through implementing and protecting laws on freedom of expression along with promoting tolerance among the nation’s citizens as the key to fighting hate speech. Flirting with the radicals in an attempt to gain their favour has proven to be flirting with disaster. 

The great Egyptian nation which has sacrificed thousands of its finest sons and daughters during two consecutive revolutions and a ferocious war on terrorism deserves a modern and democratic form of government that shuns extremism and embraces secular modernity. Upholding the pillars of democracy, free elections, freedom of information, the peaceful rotation of power, freedom of speech and tolerance is the true commemoration of Egypt’s fallen heroes. Their sacrifices and their young lives would be lost if Egyptians do not realise the importance of these features of democracy. These heroes gave up their lives to fight religious tyranny and other forms of dictatorship besieging the nation from within. 

Making sure that Egypt remains the opposite to what terrorists from the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and IS want it to be is the greatest method of honouring our fallen heroes who gave up their lives expecting nothing in return. 

The writer is a political analyst and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring: The Long and Winding Road to Democracy

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