Mubarak Still Rules

Article Summary
The dismissal of numerous presenters from the Egyptian Tahrir television channel underscores the increasingly blatant censorship undertaken by the Military Council, writes Alaa al-Aswany. Meanwhile, the alliance between the council and the Islamists who control the majority of parliamentary seats poses a serious threat to the drafting of a democratic constitution.

Last Saturday [February 11, 2012], renowned television host Dina Abdel Rahman arrived to work at the Tahrir television channel in Cairo, only to find that the channel’s management had barred her from going on air and that another female presenter was waiting ready to host a substitute show.

Dina Abdel Rahman has become one of [Egypt’s] most successful television hosts, owing to her competency, bravery, commitment to the truth, and her unwillingness to yield to any form of political pressure - regardless of its source. In her program, Dina exposed several of the heinous crimes that [Egyptian] security forces have perpetrated against protesters.

Last summer, Dina worked for the Dream channel. She resigned when the owner of the channel tried to pressure her into easing her criticism of the Military Council’s policies, moving at that time to Tahrir channel. Yet here she is, months later, barred from work by Sulaiman Amer, the owner of Tahrir. [Amer] himself is a businessman accused of appropriating large tracts of lands in [Ra’s al-Sulaymaniyah] and using them for purposes contrary to their designations. Furthermore, the Al-Badil website also published an article in which it claimed that an agreement had been reached between Sulaiman Amer and the Military Council in which Amer committed to removing all on-air programs which criticized the council. In return, the Military Council would permanently close the case dealing with [Amer’s] land in Sulaymaniyah. Indeed, within weeks, all personalities critical of the Military Council’s policies had left Tahrir. These personalities also included [journalists and talk show hosts] Hamdi Kandil, Ibrahim Issa, Doaa Sultan and, last but not least, Dina Abdel Rahman.

The channel’s management now claims that its dispute with Dina Abdel Rahman solely revolved around financial matters. These claims are unfortunately not convincing, and they do not justify the channel’s improper conduct. However, Dina Abdel Rahman will not let this childish behavior [affect her work], having already decided never to compromise her principles, even if doing so were to lead to her losing her show. [By staying true to her journalistic integrity], she has gained the respect of millions of Egyptians.

The same day, newspapers published a story that Dr. Mamdouh Hamza would be investigated by the office of State Security, which has accused him of sabotage and working to overthrow the state. Dr. Hamza is one of the most prominent architects in the world, and has received important international awards and has boosted the pride of every Egyptian in the process. He is also one of the symbols of the Egyptian revolution; he expended great efforts in support of the revolution and its goals. The investigation being led by the office of State Security has its basis in an audio tape in which Dr. Hamza allegedly pledges to ‘destroy Egypt and burn it to the ground’ - [thankfully], his horrible, diabolical scheme has been exposed!

Any Egyptian child could easily ascertain that the recording is fabricated and put together in a manner lacking in professionalism and intelligence. This would not be the first time that Mamdouh Hamza has been punished for criticizing the Military Council’s policies. He was previously investigated, along with other fellow revolutionaries, over accusations such as “Deceiving the public into thinking that corruption still exists,” a charge that is reminiscent of the tactics the [Hosni] Mubarak regime used to punish its opponents. [For example, the former regime would accuse people of]: “Disturbing social peace, creating confusion among citizens and inciting hatred against the regime.” Once again, Mamdouh Hamza has taken the high ground over this juvenile behavior, emboldened by his achievements, his good reputation and his devotion to his country. There remains, however, a far-reaching campaign that aims to discredit all those who oppose the Military Council’s policies. The tools they have used to this effect have gone beyond fabricated evidence and harassment at work - they have reached the level of coordinated attacks [on dissenters] at the hands of paid thugs. [The most recent incident of this kind] was a retributive attack on Mohamed Abu Hamed, a Member of Parliament who had demanded that power immediately be transferred from the Military Council to civilian authorities.

What we are clearly now discovering is that the rule of the Military Council is but a replica of that of the Mubarak regime. Mubarak’s aim was to maintain a hold over power which he would later bequeath to his son. The Military Council put a halt to this scenario when it declared itself protector of the revolution. However, all it has done throughout the past year has been aimed at stifling and curbing the [fulfillment of] the revolution, mutating it into a coup d'état in which the ruler has been overthrown but the regime has remained in place.

The Military Council allied itself with the Muslim Brotherhood to benefit from its popularity and its organizational capabilities, and in return, it helped the Brotherhood achieve a parliamentary majority. The Military Council prepared the electoral lists in such a way as to make it easier for the Brotherhood to win the elections. Despite the fact that a High Electoral Commission was established [to monitor the elections and ensure fair procedures], this body contented itself with overseeing a series of infractions while doing nothing to put an end to them. The Brotherhood and the Salafists committed a myriad of electoral infractions, including purchasing votes; distributing sugar, oil and meat to voters [in order to buy their favor]; using employees affiliated with the Brotherhood to influence voters inside and outside electoral committees; and using religious slogans and the mosques to spread their electoral platform. In the end, the Brotherhood and the Salafists achieved the desired results agreed upon with the Military Council.

These elections may not have been complete forgeries, but they were certainly not fair. The Egyptian revolution got stuck between the military’s hammer and the anvil of the Brotherhood. The military seeks to suppress the revolution and remain in power behind the scenes, while on the other hand, the Brotherhood wants to attain power by any means necessary. The Brotherhood has received its end of the bargain by gaining a parliamentary majority - now the time has come for it to pay its share.

The question now is: Will the current People’s Assembly be capable of investigating Major General Hamdi Badin, the commander of Egypt's military police, for the crimes - which were all caught on tape - that his soldiers committed?

Can the People’s Assembly withdraw its confidence from Prime Minister Ganzouri or his Interior Minister following the Port Said massacre, which was orchestrated and planned as revenge against overzealous sports supporters among the revolutionary youth? The People’s Assembly has contented itself with the creation of a fact-finding committee, whose report put the blame on security forces as well as the Football Association and the crowds. However, [the document] failed to mention that military police officers were present during the massacre and did nothing to save the victims. As much as I wish I were mistaken in saying so, all evidence points to the People’s Assembly being incapable of crossing the line drawn by the Military Council. There are certain representatives (both liberals and Islamists) who are working hard to ensure the right decisions are being made; but the majority remains in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood deputies. [These deputies] have sworn allegiance to their supreme leader, a man who is merely fulfilling his part in the bargain with the Military Council.

The Military Council has kept in place all the officials from the Mubarak regime: Judges who oversaw electoral fraud, the Attorney General, the Chairman of the Central Auditing Organization, the Governor of the Central Bank and the commanders of the security forces responsible for the dehumanizing deaths of a multitude of Egyptians.

Newspapers have published reports accusing former Interior Minister al-Essawi of issuing orders that funds be regularly distributed to all officers involved in the death of martyrs so that their morale be lifted. Thus, while the martyrs families were demanding that justice be served, the Interior Minister has been distributing monthly rewards to the killers. The Military Council alone is responsible for the lawlessness, chaos, armed gangs, increased prices and lack of foodstuffs, because it is the body which has assumed the President’s powers during the transitional phase. We cannot in this instance forgive the Military Council due to a lack of political experience, because it refused that a civilian Presidential Council be formed, insisting  on monopolizing power and treating ministers as mere employees.

Roads have been blocked, trains stopped and churches burnt, while members of the military police have stood by and done nothing. There have been two kinds of exceptions [for which they will make an effort to intervene] : Either to save a member of Mubarak regime from the demonstrators, or to repress demonstrators that oppose them through the most brutal of crimes, such as using live ammunition, shooting them in the eyes with pellets or molesting Egyptian women and dragging them through the streets. The Military Council did not allow Egyptians to deal with these problems on their own. Instead, it has furthered its attempts to terrify citizens by repeating that there are grand conspiracies to topple the state - without once presenting the slightest shred of evidence to this effect.

It was indeed expected that the Egyptian people would grow tired of the crises [in the street] and terrified of the lawlessness that had prevailed, and that, in the end, they would grow resentful of the revolution and accept all decisions made by the Military Council. But the million-man demonstrations that spread throughout the Egyptian provinces on the first anniversary of the revolution have proven that Egyptians is still striving to bring their revolution’s goals to fruition. The revolutionary youth - the most noble and courageous of Egypt’s children - have meanwhile continued to fall victim to the Military Council’s successive campaigns. Their repression has degenerated into sad massacres destined to break the resolve [of the youth]. Despite the dozens of martyrs and the thousands of injured who have fallen, the revolutionary youth emerged victorious, their will unbroken. This is when the media stepped in and unleashed a wide-ranging organized campaign to sully the revolutionaries’ image - the same revolutionaries that the media had once portrayed as national heroes. [The media] has now turned on them and accused them of being traitorous agents funded by foreign entities. Major General Al-Rouini has also accused the April 6 and Kefaya (Enough) movements of being funded by outside sources, without even bothering to apologize after he failed to substantiate his baseless accusations.

The Military Council has surprised us lately with its fierce campaign against certain civil society organizations. It has accused them of acquiring funds through illegal means and working towards partitioning Egypt into three states (the number later grew to five states). This strange tactic raises many questions: Why did the Military Council ignore these organizations for a whole year, during which time they operated in full view? Why didn’t the Military Council react this forcefully when Israeli troops violated our border, killing six of our soldiers and officers? Did an undisclosed dispute erupt between the Military Council and the American administration which caused the council to embark on this campaign as a way of punishing the Americans? If the Military Council truly rejects foreign funding, and wants all organizations and parties to have transparent budgets, then why hasn’t it looked into the Brotherhood and the Salafists’ funding and investigated the source of the millions of Egyptian Pounds they spent during the elections? Can the sources of the Brotherhood’s funding be overlooked because it is the Military Council’s ally, while the civil organizations - which played the important role of exposing the heinous crimes committed against demonstrators - are punished by the council?

Should the Military Council remain in power, the new constitution will be a disgrace, for it will be shaped under the council’s tutelage. This will inevitably lead to the election of a president named and controlled from behind the scenes by the council - in the same way that it currently controls the prime minister. It is time for the Military Council to surrender power to an elected civilian body, so that the army may return to its barracks and be able to fulfill its primary mission of protecting the country. The revolution will persist until it triumphs and achieves its goals.

Found in: scaf, mubarak, islamist-military alliance, censorship

Alaa al-Aswany is an Egyptian writer and a prominent member of the Egyptian Movement for Change, Kefaya. Al-Aswany currently writes a weekly column for Al-Masry Al-Youm and his political articles have been featured in The Guardian, The New York Times and Le Monde. His 2002 novel, The Yacoubian Building, has been translated into 27 languages and was nominated by US Newsday in 2006 as the most important translated novel in the United States.


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