Saturday,24 June, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1177, (19 December 2013 - 1 January 2014)
Saturday,24 June, 2017
Issue 1177, (19 December 2013 - 1 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Year of violence

VIOLENCE as a political instrument yields the present scene in all the Arab Spring countries, where the conflict between the toppled regimes and the revolutionaries has turned into bloody clashes. The simple citizen who went out to demonstrate in the hope of a better life, believing in change, has turned into the victim of power struggles, paying the price of escalating violence every time. So much so that the sight of death and destruction is by now the dominant image in Egypt no less than other Arab Spring states.

In Egypt the degree of tension and polarisation intensified following the unlawful constitutional declaration made by deposed president Mohamed Morsi in November 2012, whereby he gave himself, his decisions and laws safeguards that surpass those of God Himself. This was, what is more, in the context of a scheme of aberrations that had accumulated since the referendum of 19 March 2011, whereby it was decided that parliament and the president would be elected before the drafting of a constitution to determine the powers of whoever would live in Al-Ittihadiya presidential palace in Heliopolis. Thus Morsi was able to usurp for himself, for his political organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood, and for the extreme religious right in general all possible rights at the expense of the people at large as well as political and revolutionary forces that had taken to the streets on 25 January 2011 to topple the former president Hosni Mubarak. The result was not only tension and polarisation but enervating economic, security and political crises. The streets and squares all across Egypt witnessed violent clashes and tumultuous demonstrations with numerous casualties — until the popular decision to stage a new revolution whose date on 30 June 2013 was specified months previously, to topple the Muslim Brotherhood, its supreme guide and its representative at Al-Ittihadiya.

For, despite warnings of deteriorating conditions by state institutions and the army, with reports handed to the president of an imminent civil war between his supporters from the extreme religious right and the majority of Egyptians who would stage millions-strong demonstrations called for by the Tamarod campaign (having gathered 22 million signatures from all the country’s provinces) on the anniversary of his being sworn in, it was no use. The army in particular voiced many warnings, calling on Morsi to come up with a political initiative to defuse the crisis by returning to the ballots for a referendum or early presidential elections and the amendment of the constitution drafted all but exclusively by the extreme religious right. Yet Morsi rejected every initiative and mobilised his supporters metres away from the presidential palace at Nasr City’s Rabaa Al-Adawiya, starting from 26 June, whence they threatened to crush and eliminate anyone who went out to demonstrate or drew near to the palace. They went even further, declaring anyone who went out against Morsi an apostate and legitimising their murder.

Thus the 30 June popular revolution, which the army supported in the same way as it had supported the 25 January 2011 Revolution: Morsi was deposed. Yet two sit-ins by Morsi’s supporters in Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Nahda Square continued for 45 days. There the Islamist protesters demanded the return of Morsi to power, with his constitution and his legitimacy. At the podiums there the Brotherhood leaders and their allies, many of whom had had terrorist careers in the 1990s, incited the Islamists, offering them visas to paradise and stating that hell would be the fate of their enemies, whom they called “the coup supporters”, calling for their death. The almost daily marches that roamed the streets turned every time into violent clashes in which many were killed and injured, they also blocked the roads, destroyed shops and besieged the residents of the neighbourhoods where the sit-ins were staged, turning them into hostages under house arrest — until the decision was taken to clear the sit-ins, effecting a turning point in the course of a year of violence, when hundreds of casualties and injuries were sustained according to the forensic authorities, and thousands according to the Brotherhood and its allies. A state of political enmity, verbal violence and abuse and accusations of treason and espionage ensued between those who supported the clearing of the sit-ins and those who rejected it both in and outside the regime. The streets and universities of Egypt have become the playground of an ongoing conflict that still rages at the time of publication between Morsi’s supporters on the one hand and police and army forces together with citizens on the other — a bloody scene in which women, children, elderly people and Coptic Christians all fell, churches and mosques, private and public property were burned down, roads and bridges and tunnels were blocked, and private and public interests were interrupted, affecting every aspect of life in Egypt.

This has coincided with a war on terrorism waged by the army and the police in Sinai and a number of cities, following the uprising of terrorist groups who support the Muslim Brotherhood, who declared war on the army and targeted soldiers, officers, headquarters and deployments in a variety of places. The terrorists have thus killed dozens of army personnel in repeated operations, with logistical, political and media support from regional and international parties, be they organisations or states. That war too is ongoing.

The scene in other parts of the region is not significantly different, now that the 30 June Revolution put an end to the rise and expansion of the extreme religious right and its control of the destinies of Arab Spring countries, uncovering the extent of international and regional support for that project. Yet Syria continues to bleed daily, mourning more and more victims after attempts at political resolution failed. Likewise Tunisia: there prevails a state of polarisation and exclusion of non-Islamists to the point of assassinating activists who oppose the Muslim Brotherhood project and its partisans from extremist organisations. In Libya, the institutions of the state including the police and the army have collapsed, turning the country into a militia state with no end of conflict between extremist organisations and tribal forces. So much so that it has become a haven and a training camp for terrorists. The same is true of Yemen, and has been true of Sudan and Iraq — even regional countries like Turkey were not spared the winds of violence. Turkey has become party to all the conflicts and battles, through inciting, funding or arming Islamists while suppressing protests calling for rights and freedoms within its borders.

Al-Ahram Weekly team has not selected violence as the only scene but rather as a dominant scene parallel to which a democratic course is attempting to rectify what has been destroyed by violence, conflict and the absence of vision and hope, shedding light on the victims of that conflict and placing their interests at the head of the rights and demands that should be prioritised by all parties. The Weekly raises the slogan of the constitutional state where law, citizenship and dignity as the essence of the Arab Spring is the only way to stop violence and bloodshed. What is required is a more comprehensive view of the reasons behind this violence, which include policies of exclusion and marginalisation and the resulting poverty and unemployment as well as injustice and physical, sexual, moral and verbal abuse — all of which had accumulated over many years prior to the Arab Spring, but it has increased and taken root in the absence of stability and a correct democratic course.

 

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