There is a growing sense of mistrust towards the Egyptian Armed Forces and their role in leading people through the after-Mubarak transition period. There were strange comments on the Statement#4 of the Military High Council today. I entirely disagree with this analysis. It is built on misinterpreting the moves of the Military High Council (MHC) which is doing its best to keep up people's confidence in them.
The Military here in Egypt is much respected and trusted than any other authority in the state. I would claim that they played a very important role in making our revolution succeed by simply not using violence. They have never shot any one or harass any protester in any way and under any condition. On the contrary, they have helped save the lives of the protesters against the thugs hired by Mubarak. They refused to comply with Mubarak's orders to kill protesters. Even before the revolution, whenever they were need to play a civil role, they always do it perfectly with showing high respect to the people. I
t was not strange to see people cheering them when they came with their tanks and weapons to the streets last Friday. Egyptian people love, respect, and trust their military.
- When MHC speaks about state priorities it does not mean not listening to people's demands. On the contrary, they have asserted more than once that the demands of the people are "legitimate" and should be met as soon as possible. Logically, the demands needs at least 6 months to happen without letting the state fall apart and it should happen in a priority order.
- When MHC speaks about the civil state, they are responding to people's demands for not having a military state. They do not care about the Muslim Brotherhood now. They never opposed it clearly or said any thing about accepting it or not. Actually, they do not have the say in this. The military people are not allowed to participate in any elections. It is a rule. So, it is not there decision. And, yes, we all want civil state. We neither want the army nor the Muslim Brotherhood, so I am sure the people won't object the military blocking the Muslim Brotherhood, although I doubt that it may even happen.
- When MHC gives a hint to Israel and US that they keep their treaties, that is to make sure that Egypt's foreign relations won't be harmed during the domestic reconstruction period. I think this is a very wise move from their side and we do respect them more for stating that so clearly.
- The statement of the Revolution Coalition was writing last night and published this morning. In other words it was published before the MHC statement not after it. So, it is not meant to counter it in any way.
- Unlike this article suggests, there is no conflict between military and people at all. On the contrary, there is a very high sense of cooperation and trust between both sides.
The talk about the increasing popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood among protesters is very true. It is not government propaganda. The politically motivated religious group, which is officially banned by the Egyptian regime, did not participate in the protests from the beginning as a group, but as individual Egyptians. On the second week of revolution, they decided to come to streets with their collective identity as members of the MB group. They did not use any specific MB-related or Islamic slogans, but they moved together in blocs.
Since Friday, the Muslim Brotherhood are dominating the protesting scene, especially in Cairo and Alexandria, although of course, there are so many other protesters from various groups: leftists, secularists, and liberals. Also, on the political level, we have seen them negotiating on behalf of protesters with the Vice-President, which can be interpreted as recognition from the state of their legitimacy.
That was not the case before January 25. That triggers the very important question on how big is the potential for the Muslim Brotherhood to lead the country after Mubarak leaves either now or after the end of his term.
To answer this question, let’s first try to interpret how the MB gained popularity among the protesters and are now negotiating in their name although they were not the starters of the revolution. Lasat Wednesday and Thursday there were horrible clashes between supporters of Mubarak (allegedly thugs hired by the regime to kill protesters) and young protesters. They were more than clashes, some of the thugs had guns and shot the protesters at night from the tops of the rooves in Tahrir Square. Some died and so many got injured. The MB members played a very important role in saving the lives of the majority of the protesters. They are very well trained on how to fight and how to defend themselves in armed conflict. They are highly organized.
So, they were able to counter attack the thugs and defeat them and save the lives of protesters. Otherwise, the thugs could have killed everyone there on that horrible night where they were shooting activists from the buildings surrounding Tahrir Square. This way, the MB gained big popularity among protesters.
Simultaneously, we need to understand why the Egyptian regime changes the way it deals with the Muslim Brotherhood group, which was once labeled by the regime as illegitimate. There are so many reasons:
First, the government wants to win more time by going through meaningless negotiations with old opposition groups and parties. The Muslim Brotherhood is one of them. Although they do not represent the revolution and did not play any role in starting it, they are much easier to negotiate with. The regime knows very well how to control them and make them go through the path the regime draws.
But the young Facebookers who are the real keyplayers in this revolution are still a new untested opponent that the regime does not really know how to deal with.
Second, by discriminating against the political groups in terms with whom to call and whom not to call for negotiations, the regime is trying to create factions in the currently unified bloc of opposition. This is a very well-known strategy that has been used by dictators all over the world and it has been used in Egypt over the past thirty years.
Third, by showing and emphasizing the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood in the political scene, the regime wants to send a negative message to its international allies, especially the US that Egypt would turn into an Islamic country after Mubarak and subsequently the Middle East would get into eternal war between Islamists in Egypt and Iran on one side and Israel on the other side.
This was the motto of Mubarak over the past thirty years: “if it is not me, it is the Muslim Brotherhood.” I am sorry to say that most of the politicians in Washington believe this. I was told more than once: “the devil we know is better than the devil we do not know.” Perhaps that is why we have seen this strange change in Washington’s attitude over the past three days from insistence on the immediate removal of Mubarak to asking the people to give him an opportunity to stay in power until the end of his term.
Now, let’s investigate the most urgent question that every one inside and outside Egypt cares for right now: how high is the potential of the Muslim Brotherhood to get to power after Mubarak? The Muslim Brotherhood represents on average 15 percent of the protesters. The western media have been mistakenly portraying them as the largest opposition group in Egypt for so long. If they were, the could have been able to launch a revolution like the one we witness these days.
The Muslim Brotherhood are popular only among certain grassroots citizens that cannot differentiate between their political mission and its relation to Islam. Those citizens we call the silent bloc, which may like to see change but rarely participate in calling for it. It is true that the Muslim Brotherhood won a large number of seats in Parliament in 2005. But that does not reflect their popularity on ground at all. Given the fact we have never had free and fair elections, this reflects that the regime wanted them to be a majority to beat the then growing influence of liberals.
At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood have very limited popularity among the young people who represent 70 percent of population. Even the young people affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood reject the policy of the group and the way its leaders deal with them. So many of them have left the group already and joined the liberal movement.
Additionally, it does not make any sense that the people are sacrificing their lives today to replace an autocratic regime with a theocratic regime. The Egyptian youth, who are leading change in Egypt today, were supporting their young peers in Iran against the hardliners in the Iranian regime in 2009. They know very well that they will not gain any benefit by having a theocratic regime under the Muslim Brotherhood or any other form of Islamic regime.
To make it simpler let’s try make a simple calculation. 12 percent of Egyptians are non-Muslim citizens. Those added to the 70 percent mentioned above, equals 82 percent of the Egyptian population that will not vote for an Islamic state under any condition.
Finally, the Washington Institute for Near East Studies released a very interesting poll, that is said to be "the first-ever reliable public opinion poll of Egyptians on these issues, taken by telephone in the midst of the current political upheaval." The poll results indicated that "This is not an Islamic uprising. The Muslim Brotherhood is approved by just 15 percent of Egyptians -- and its leaders get barely 1 percent of the vote in a presidential straw poll. Asked to pick national priorities, only 12 percent of Egyptians choose sharia (Islamic law) over Egypt's regional leadership, democracy, or economic development. And, when asked to explain the uprising, the issues of economic conditions, corruption, and unemployment (around 30 percent each) far outpace the concern that "the regime is not Islamic enough" (only 7 percent)."
The west must understand that the Islamic state is not, if at all, the only alternative to Mubarak’s autocracy. There is a growing young liberal movement in Egypt that needs all help and support from the world’s democracies and international community, if they really care for a better stable Middle East in the future.
It is Friday night on the 11th day of the biggest upheaval Egypt has ever witnessed in its modern history. It was labeled the "Day of Departure," meaning that this is the day when the large crowds of millions of Egyptians should have forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Millions of people showed up not only in Cairo but all over Egypt and called for Mubarak to give up his position immediately. Thousands of pro-Mubarak supporters showed up, too, and called for Mubarak to stay forever.
The good news is that, thanks to military intervention, no clashes happened between the pro- and anti-Mubarak groups similar to the horrible violence we witnessed on the days before. The bad news is that Mubarak is still in his office, the protesters are still in Tahrir Square, military troops are still spread all over the country, and the usual life activities are on pause. That makes me ask: Are we losing the momentum? Where should it all lead to at the end? It cannot go forever like this. There must be a clear strategy for what should happen next. But before I discuss the strategy the protesters should adopt, we should first understand the strategy of the regime.
Mubarak is using the same old techniques that our ancestors (the pharaohs) and all other modern dictators have used. Despite huge internal and international pressure, he created an efficient strategy to get out of the crisis without losing his power.
First, Mubarak built two strong pillars to help him stand up again: the new vice president and the new prime minister. Both have long, clean and successful histories as patriotic, non-corrupt leaders. The prime minister is charismatic and open-minded, while the vice president is a tough intelligence man and a veteran expert of strategic planning related to security issues and crisis management.
Above all, the two are old friends of Mubarak unlikely to let him down under any condition. By hiring them, Mubarak hit three birds with only one stone. He secured himself and strengthened his position again. He answered a long-awaited demand of the people for him to name a vice president. And he hired a new government in place of the corrupt and failed former government. The new government seems very promising under a leader who has a clear vision and mission and who did not hesitate to share it with the public.
Second, Mubarak offered some scapegoats to the angry people and so avoids being the direct target of their anger. He forced the notorious businessman and former leading member of his ruling National Democratic Party to resign. A few days later, the public prosecutor announced that this businessman along with some former allegedly corrupt ministers and the most merciless former minister of interior are prevented from traveling. This means they are under arrest and will be investigated soon. By doing so, Mubarak showed not only his people but the whole world that he is an honest man who fights corruption and removes corrupt elements in his regime and government even if they are his strongest allies. He not only cleared his own record but also avoided being held personally accountable for all the corruption committed in his name.
Third, Mubarak targeted people's hearts and made them sympathize with him. He played not only on the fact that the political mind of the people is in their hearts, not minds, but also the fact that Egyptians are very emotional and the majority of the people see the president of the state as a god or at least a father who should be respected and obeyed no matter how he acts. On Tuesday night, Mubarak gave a short and sweet speech declaring that he loves Egypt and cares for its safety. He stated that because he is a responsible man he will not run for a new presidential term and reminded people with his glorious moments as a noble military warrior and civil hero. He also mentioned that he ordered the amendment of the constitution, especially the most controversial articles related to presidency. It was a touching speech that made a lot of people cry and forgive him unconditionally for every thing.
I was watching the speech with my own family and some neighbors, I saw tears in their eyes while Mubarak was speaking. Those who was insisting that Mubarak should leave turned to be with him. Moments after the speech ended, television stations received phone calls from people crying, showing much love and affection toward Mubarak, and apologizing for him for what the protesters do. My mother, who was very proud of what I am doing, looked me upside down and said that I am heartless and ungrateful.
I do not know how to interpret that reaction: Is that schizophrenia? It does not make sense that all those people are schizophrenics. Are they stuck with Stockholm syndrome? I do not know. At the end, whatever the motive is, Mubarak captured the hearts of a lot of people by this speech.
Also, his speech responded to three of the four demands of the protesters and made the call for his immediate resignation meaningless. He is leaving anyway after a very few months, and his existence in power during this period became a necessity to make the sought-after constitutional amendments happen.
The day after his emotional speech, large groups of Mubarak supporters poured into streets and clashed with anti-Mubarak protesters. The clashes were violent as people used Molotov cocktails and gunfire against each other. Thus, it became hard to claim that Mubarak or the police forces are behind the violence against protesters. It is now people fighting people, while the regime is completely innocent.
Fourth, Mubarak employed media in his favor by making them portray activists as traitors and agents for foreign countries, which targets Egypt's wealth and stability. They claimed that suspected foreigners are distributing fliers and communication machines along with food and water to activists. Although this propaganda is not true, many people believed it and started to feel threatened by foreign enemies. It is a well-known technique to distract people's minds away from domestic problems. At the same time, media worked on improving the image of Mubarak and glorifying his deeds. They emphasized his image as a father to all Egyptians. He also spoke to foreign media asserting the same image and sending the same emotional message not only to his people but to the world.
There is no doubt that President Mubarak is a very smart man and he knows very well how to get out of such critical situations. He is now putting protesters into some sort of a dilemma. On the one hand, he called upon the opposition for negotiations and replied to three of the four demands: changing the government, dissolving the parliament, having him out of office and changing the constitution. On the other hand, protesters have no particular leader and no clear strategy for what should happen next; the whole movement was kind of spontaneous and led by no one. That was a factor of strength at the beginning as it started as an upheaval by the people and for the people, away from any political agenda of any particular political party or group. But now, it has become a problem that threatens the success achieved so far by protesters. It has become a necessity for protesters to come together and put a clear plan for what they should do next and find the right leader from among them.
It is the night of January 27, 2011. This post was written while the internet access was blocked all over Egypt. I know so many updates has taken place since then and I will write about my own perspective on these updates in following posts, but I found it really important to publish this post to document for the current revolution… God bless Egypt, God bless brave Egyptians.
Probably writing is the best way to utilize the vast free time of isolation which the government has given to us by blocking internet access and mobile internet and text message services all over Egypt. I think what we are witnessing in Egypt today is history in the making. The change in Egypt could change the entire history of the Middle East and North Africa region.
For the third consecutive day, Egyptians are persistently expressing their anger and calling for change. The Egyptian Police Day, January 25, 2011 will be remembered forever as People Day; the day when Egyptians broke the barriers of fear and had their voices heard. Inspired by the Tunisian revolution that put an end to Ben Ali’s dictatorship of 23 years, tens of thousands of ordinary citizens and young activists rallied in streets calling for change, democracy, freedom, and justice. Despite the exaggerated use of violence in Suez as a result of killing four citizens by security forces during clashes, the majority of protesters all over Egypt are still nonviolent so far.
The protests in urban and rural districts of Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, and Upper Egypt were not organized by the well-known opposition elite and intellectuals or by the popular leaders of opposition political parties and groups. They were created by young cyber activists who organized themselves via Facebook and Twitter. Khaled Said group on Facebook played a great role in creating the event, calling for the protests, and distributing online leaflets of instructions. The Khaled Said group was created by young cyber activists few months ago in protest to beating Khaled Said, 28, to death by policemen in Alexandria. In parallel with the street protests, there was a virtual fight on the Internet. The government blocked Twitter since the evening of January 25th till the night of January 26. Then returned back to blocking Facebook and Twitter entirely on the evening of January 27 and announced the official banning of some internet services in Egypt on Friday.
Elbaradie has returned to Egypt after being absent for so long and expressed his willingness to lead the protests. However, his offer was not met by any welcome from the young people. They think he chose to be left behind from the beginning and it is not appropriate of him to show up now. As soon as I heard the news of Elbaradie’s offer, I ran a quick survey via my Facebook and Twitter pages asking people if they would like to see Elbaradie as a president in case the upheaval succeeded in bringing Mubarak down. None of the responses were positive. Most of the responses were against his offer to lead to protests and refused entirely the idea of having him as president, while the a smaller portion of responses asserted that we should focus only on what we are doing right now and keep argument over Elbaradie legitimacy to a later time. “We welcome Elbaradie to participate in Friday demonstrations as a citizen but not as a leader,” one of my followers in Twitter responded to my question. It was interesting to know through my little survey that by his absence Elbaradie has a lost a lot of his former supporters.
Elbaradie is not the only opposition elite who wants to hijack people’s protest for his own favor. The Muslim Brotherhood are doing the same thing for the same reason; showing off. The MB announced that they will participate in the protests that are planned after noon prayers on Friday (tomorrow). It is noteworthy that the regime has accused the MB of practicing violence in the protests that ran in the past two days, while in fact this is not true at all. The MB members who participated in the last two days protests did not represent any thing except their own selves as Egyptian citizens. But tomorrow, unfortunately, they will play a different role.
The most encouraging feature of the current upheaval is the massive participation of women; not only the young educated women who uses the internet but also the grassroots uneducated older women from rural cities. This is a proof that the protests that were initially driven by Egyptian internet users is turning perfectly into a real on-ground upheaval composed of Egyptians from different age groups and social backgrounds and that is exactly the reason why the protests are so strong and persistent so far.
Tomorrow, Friday, is believed to be the definite day for the future of Egypt. The ball is now in the court of the regime. They have the choice either to spill gas on the fire by using extreme violence against protesters to scare them away or to listen to the people and do what they want. Actually, the regime is in a big dilemma; both options are bad for them. However, the less risky option for the regime is to listen to the people and have their demands fulfilled. The option of using violence would only lead to more violence, more chaos, and disaster. The people has been waiting for the regime, particularly President Mubarak, to show up and speak to them and do his best to have their requests made. After all, that is what presidents do – i.e., take care of their people and satisfy their needs. I hope Mubarak’s prejudice won’t make him underestimate the situation and look at the massive protests as a ridiculous act of some silly kids who would run away if the guns are pointed towards their chests! It is much bigger than that. It is a real upheaval of angry people who are fed up with government’s corruption and deteriorating economic situation.
* Wait for more views and ideas on the following posts.
In the midst of this week’s remarkable and inspirational revolution in Egypt have been the voices of a community of young bloggers who have been laying the groundwork for change in their country. While the Egyptian government is now attempting desperately to crack down on all non-state-controlled media outlets, these activists have been using different forms of communications tools to build upon a message of nonviolent change they have been promoting for months and years.
One of the key leaders in that Egyptian blogging community is Dalia Ziada, the Cairo-based North Africa Director for the American Islamic Congress. She was profiled in international media in the spring of 2009 in articles in both Time magazine and the History News Network for her efforts to help develop a democratic voice in her region.
Each article specifically highlighted Ziada’s role in translating into Arabic a comic book titled Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. In “A Quiet Revolution Grows in the Muslim World,”Time’s well-respected Middle East correspondent Robin Wright (fomerly of the Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post) said: