Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Mothers in black

The mothers of murdered protesters offer eloquent testimony to the way President Mohamed Morsi has turned his back on justice, writes Nashwa Abdel-Tawab

Egypt
Egypt
Al-Ahram Weekly

Waladi (my son), baladi (my country), two words repeated, together with death and corruption, in the tearful chants and prayers of the black clad mothers of martyrs who had gathered in front of President Mohamed Morsi’s house holding photographs of their murdered children.

“We want him to wake up, if indeed he can sleep with his conscience,” said Wafaa, mother of Mohamed Mustafa — aka Karika — who was killed in the cabinet sit-in clashes in 2011.

“We wanted him to see women dressed in mourning on his doorstep before going to make the Friday prayer in the mosque. How can he face his creator without first facing his citizens and keeping the promises he made to them. But he couldn’t face us. He ran away and now there are rows of security cordons in front of the house. He should leave. If he cannot manage the issues we are presenting him with how can he manage a country?”

As the first anniversary of Mohamed Morsi’s inauguration as president approaches he faces widespread discontent from across the social spectrum and stinging grass-roots campaigns that have undermined his ability to exercise power.

Morsi inherited a dysfunctional state, worn down by decades of authoritarianism which marginalised the masses and empowered and enriched the few. But during Morsi’s year in office life has grown only harder. As the summer heat arrives and the holy month of Ramadan approaches, power cuts, gas shortages and rising food costs have turned an abstract crisis into a profoundly personal matter for many citizens.

Nowhere are the issues more personal than among families who lost children fighting for justice and the right to a dignified life. These families continue to attain the principles their children died for. They still believe that the path to recovery, for them as parents as much as for the country, is freedom, justice and dignity. Many supported Morsi during the presidential elections. In return he has given them nothing.

Last week, as Morsi’s supporters staged a rally as a show of strength, dozens of mothers of the martyrs — children killed during the 25 January Revolution and the two years that have followed — protested in front of Morsi’s house in the suburb of New Cairo to denounce the president’s failure to secure justice for their sons. A small protest, yes, but moving and true.

Among those present were the mother of Mohamed Mustafa (Karika), the father and sister of Rami Al-Sharkawi — both killed during the cabinet clashes in December 2011 — and Zohra, the sister of Khaled Said, beaten to death in the streets of Alexandria in broad daylight by two policemen in June 2010 and who subsequently became a symbol of the struggle against police torture. They were joined by the mothers of more recent victims, protesters such as Mohamed Al-Guindi and Jika, murdered during the first year of President Morsi’s rule.

“Morsi promised justice for the martyrs. He claimed the new prosecutor-general would present new evidence against those accused of killing them,” says Riham, sister of Rami Al-Sharkawi. “Nothing has happened. The police officers accused of killing protesters are all acquitted. The generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) are being honoured by Morsi. Protesters are killed during Morsi’s rule and no one is held accountable. And as Morsi breaks his promises so does the Muslim Brotherhood, and even some opposition parties, cynically use the deaths to justify their attacks on democracy.” Almost 1,000 Egyptians died in the revolution and almost 100 more were killed during Morsi’s rule but very few mothers attended the protest.

The protest, which included a tiny fraction of the mothers of murdered protesters, was organised by the “Warakom Bel-Taqrir” (We’re following you with the report) campaign, which seeks to publicise the work of the fact-finding committee commissioned by Morsi in July 2012 to investigate the killing of unarmed protesters since 2011 and whose report the president refuses to make public. Earlier this year, angered at the way the president was ignoring their findings, members of the fact-finding committee leaked much of the report.

“Even if I am the only mother I will stand up for my son’s rights which are the nation’s rights,” said the mother of Mustafa, who was tortured and killed during the revolution.

“I joined the protest because the martyrs don’t just belong to their families,” says psychiatrist Manal Omar. “They belong to all of us. They didn’t join the protest to die. They joined because they wanted the nation to live and principles to live by. We cherish their sacrifice. We won’t forget them or the dreams we all shared and for which they died. If Morsi had respected his promises we would have respected him. Listen, Morsi, we didn’t come here to remove you from power, that’s not our role. The people will remove you from power. Mubarak came and went. Morsi came and he will go.”

“When 61-year-old Mohamed Morsi took office on 30 June 2012, Egypt had high hopes that the 30-plus-year rule of Egypt’s authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak would be replaced by a new democracy,” says Ahmed, brother of Adel Abdel-Rahman who was killed in December 2011. “Instead Morsi allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to hijack the election and rule Egypt. He does not miss an opportunity to thank the military and the Ministry of Interior for protecting the revolution. My brother and others who sacrificed their lives in Tahrir Square didn’t do so to see one form of tyranny replace another. I was never against the Muslim Brotherhood, but I want to say they don’t represent mainstream Egyptians.”

Morsi suspended the rule of law to immunise his decisions from legal challenge, claiming that he was doing so to protect the revolution. He has presided over appalling economic deterioration as unrest chased away investors and tourists. Foreign currency reserves are half of what they were under Mubarak. The stock exchange hit an 11-month low last week, and the Egyptian pound has lost ten per cent of its value in as many months. His government has been negotiating a $4.8 billion loan on easy terms from the International Monetary Fund seemingly forever. His newly appointed culture minister has not entered his office in two weeks after it was occupied by demonstrators who accuse him of trying to “Brotherhoodise” the ministry. And the president’s response? To appoint 17 new governors, seven from the Muslim Brotherhood, setting off protests in many cities as activists burned tyres and chained governorate buildings shut to prevent new appointees from reaching their offices. In the city of Tanta, clashes between Brotherhood members and protesters left 32 people wounded.

Grass-roots discontent has been harnessed by the Tamarod campaign which claims to have collected more signatures withdrawing confidence in Morsi than votes won by the Brotherhood’s candidate in the presidential elections.

Morsi has been left with few allies beyond the Muslim Brotherhood. The situation may soon grow even worse for the president as Egypt’s often weak and disorganised opposition mobilise for mass protests on 30 June. Many worry the demonstrations will inflame already intensely polarised politics and ignite new unrest, further weakening the nation.

“Since his election with a tiny majority last year Morsi has led a divided country from one political crisis to another… the economy sinks deeper into ruin and he has diverted every road to justice,” says Osama Al-Mahdi, a lawyer and member of “Warakom Bel-Taqrir”. “If he possessed integrity he would have shown enough political will to strengthen transitional justice and save the country from polarisation.”

Police brutality did not end in January 2011. It may even be on the rise. Reports released on the revolution’s second anniversary itemised incidents of police brutality including the routine use of live ammunition and torture being employed as a retaliatory tool. The police stand accused of acting as a gang that delivers “vigilante” justice as well as watching from the sidelines as demonstrators are attacked. At the same time they appear incapable of directing traffic, let alone providing security on Egypt’s streets.

“We warned that as long as police who commit crimes remain unpunished we shall see the same patterns of abuse as before the revolution,” says Mahdi. “The problem isn’t only with crimes committed by the police it includes the prosecution’s complicity in covering up those crimes and thus allowing the police to act with impunity.”

Not a day has passed since the 25 January uprising without a protest, a strike, a sit in or demonstration taking place. The revolution continues, for freedom, social justice and human dignity were not empty slogans but a programme to be fought for. The none-ending protests have been paralleled by human rights violations: extra judicial murders, detentions and torture sometimes leading to the death of the victim.

“He told the people he was loyal to the demands of the revolution, would ensure social justice and prosecute those who committed crimes against the people,” says Riham. “He promised redress for those who were killed and those who were deprived of their eyesight. And what was the punishment for Hussein Tantawi and Sami Anan? He awarded them the highest state honours and appointed them his counsellors. Acquittals of those accused of killing and torturing protesters followed one after the other. Morsi seems to have forgotten that what ignited the revolution on police day was the people’s determination to end their humiliation and brutalising at the hands of the police.”

“We shall not hold Morsi accountable for crimes committed under military rule after 11 February, the day SCAF had to remove its master after he became too expensive a commodity to keep,” says the mother of Khaled Said who couldn’t attend due to ill health. “But we will hold him accountable for the safe exit he gave the murderers who ruled between 11 February and 30 June, the day Morsi took over political power and swore to uphold the principles and demands of the revolution, to secure justice for its martyrs and end violations. We also hold him accountable for the torture and illegal detentions that have taken place during his rule. The regime did not change. Torture remains systemic, the police continue to enjoy impunity, justice is ignored.”

“My son died from torture. The revolution came with hopes of change but now others are dying from torture. As long as torture and murder continue so must our struggle to end it and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

 

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