Four Steps to Save The Egyptian Revolution

Article Summary
The Egyptian revolution faces a real threat from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Alaa Al-Aswany lays out an action plan to save it — and it starts with liberals and Islamists uniting to prevent the millitary from taking control of the upcoming elections. The revolution must continue in the form of protest and formal political action.

Let us suppose that you live in an apartment, and the apartment across the hall is occupied by a person you do not like. You have had many problems with your neighbor over his selfishness. This neighbor talks about principles but often ignores them if he can further his own interests by doing so. As a result, the relationship between the two of you has deteriorated and a feeling of aversion has reached the point where you have completely stopped dealing with him. Then one night a tremendous fire erupts in the building, its flames engulfing the whole structure. Suddenly your neighbor comes knocking and asks for your help in extinguishing the fire. What would you do? Would you tell him, “I refuse to deal with you even if the whole building goes up in flames with both of our children trapped inside?” Or would the gravity of the situation prompt you to cooperate with your neighbor in extinguishing the fire that threatens the building and its occupants? The choice is clear.

This analogy sums up our current situation: Egypt is the building, the neighbor who has repeatedly let us down is the Muslim Brotherhood and this period of Egypt’s history is just as dangerous as that horrible fire. The Muslim Brotherhood, along with the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), led us into the dark tunnel from which we are currently struggling to emerge. The Brotherhood allied itself with the military to devise the shameful constitutional amendments that they now complain about, mobilized the people to accept amendments they did not really understand and manipulated the referendum on the constitution into a battle between believers and infidels. The Brotherhood gave up the rebels in the Maspero Square, Mohamed Mahmoud Street and Council of Ministers massacres and failed to condemn the SCAF for committing them. The Brotherhood, in fact, condemned the rebels and accused them of being bullies who served foreign interests.

The Brotherhood appropriated the Constitution Drafting Committee to monopolize and tailor the constitutional writing process to their desires. They also aimed to control the Central Auditing Organization through a draft bill that would have given the Speaker of the People’s Assembly the power to appoint the CAO’s head. All of these were grave mistakes committed by the Muslim Brotherhood to serve its narrow interests, and their costs fell onto the sidetracked revolution. The revolution has failed to achieve the goals for which hundreds of martyrs paid the ultimate price, not to mention the thousands of injured and many of Egypt’s daughters who were abandoned by the Brotherhood while soldiers abused them in the streets. In the end, the Muslim Brotherhood discovered that all their political gains were for naught because the SCAF used them as puppets to serve their own wishes. Only then did the Brotherhood clash with the military and rejoin the revolution to present the draft Law on Political Isolation (that bars former regime members from political work), which the revolution had long demanded. And so, they returned to the squares to demand the fall of the military’s authority.

How should we deal with the Brotherhood? Should we stand with them to restore unity and once again become a strong revolutionary force, as we were during the first days of the revolution? Or will any cooperation with the Brotherhood end in its usual fashion, with them abandoning their principles to meet their political goals? This question cannot be answered without understanding what is currently happening in Egypt.

For 14 months after the ousting of Mubarak, the SCAF succeeded in denying the revolution’s demand for change. The Egyptian people have fallen victim to an organized scheme aimed at emptying the substance of the revolution, increasing its chances of failure, sullying its image and pressuring Egyptians through horrible, pre-arranged and fabricated crises such as insecurity, lack of food and a debilitating economic crisis. When people’s lives were made a living hell, the name of Omar Suleiman was put forth as a presidential candidate, as if he were the people’s savior from the catastrophe.

Whether Suleiman’s candidacy is excluded or not, the significance of his nomination remains valid and it reflects the SCAF’s apparent intentions of ending the revolution and restoring Mubarak’s regime at any cost. What the Supreme Commission for Elections is doing confirms that its decisions are politically rather than legally motivated because every decision has come to suit the will of the SCAF, even though it is never in accordance with the law. How was Omar Suleiman nominated when the numerous complaints against him had not even been investigated? How did Suleiman, in two days, garner 50,000 documented forms in support of his candidacy. Why was he suddenly excluded from running for an unconvincing and naive excuse? How could the former director of the General Intelligence Directorate miscount the number of  support forms that he submitted with his nomination?

Why won’t the Supreme Commission for Elections present, through the media, a copy of the passport proving that the mother of candidate Sheikh Hazem Abu Ismail is an American citizen? The Commission’s failure to do so means one of two things: Either it does not possess the evidence that proves Sheikh Hazem’s mother is an American citizen, or it is deliberately obfuscating the issue to provoke thousands of Sheikh Hazem’s supporters into causing chaos on the streets, leading to the  elections’ cancellation. How can the Supreme Committee accept the nomination of Ahmed Shafik before the complaints against him are investigated? There are 35 complaints accusing Shafik of squandering public funds. They were filed in the attorney general’s office a full year ago but not one was ever investigated. The attorney general’s office confirms that they sent the complaints against Shafik to the Military Court, but the court’s officials deny receiving any.

Everything occurring in Egypt confirms that the SCAF is pushing toward a pre-arranged scenario that can lead to one of two possibilities: Either the presidency is won by a SCAF-supported candidate and he is tasked with reviving Mubarak’s regime with military officers behind the scenes, or, if their approved candidate cannot be imposed, ensuing problems and general chaos will  prevent the elections from taking place, leaving the military in power indefinitely. The Egyptian revolution is passing through the most difficult phase of its history. The danger that threatens it resembles a great fire engulfing a populated building. It is therefore all of our patriotic duty to save the revolution, and this goal cannot be achieved unless the following steps are implemented:

First, the Muslim Brotherhood must sincerely apologize for the grave errors that it committed in bringing us to this mess, and  present proof of its goodwill through the attainment of a real consensus in the Constitution Drafting Committee that would satisfy all factions and parties and give the constitution real legitimacy. In return, the revolutionary civil forces must accept the Brotherhood’s apology and unite with it to restore the necessary unity to save the revolution.

Second, we must all learn to coexist with those who we disagree with, and respect their rights. The liberals and leftists must learn that the the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists are not a bunch of backward thinking fascists, but are patriotic citizens who took part in the revolution and sacrificed martyrs; they happen to possess an Islamic political agenda which we should respect even if we disagreed with it, and we must protect their right to formulate their agenda and put it before the Egyptian people. In return, the Brotherhood and the Salafists must realize that they cannot shoulder the responsibility of ruling Egypt alone, even if they represent the majority. They must learn that they could never change Egypt’s identity to mirror that of Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. They must be aware that the liberals are not enemies of Islam, nor are they sexually permissive, degenerates or agents of Western countries, and some of them are no less religious than the Islamists are. They just do not support the idea of political Islam. The fierce battle between those two wings of the revolution was one of the main factors that helped the SCAF deviate Egypt from the road toward change.

Third, Once the unity is restored, pressure must be exerted on the SCAF to give real assurances of the election's integrity. All indications so far point to the presidential elections not being honest or fair. Article 28 of the constitution, which disallows challenging the decisions of the Supreme Commission for Elections, must be repealed because it is an aberration that goes against logic and justice, while also contradicting Article 21, which forbids any form of  immunization of administrative decisions. The electoral budgets of all candidates must be subject to oversight by the Central Auditing Organization, and each candidate’s sources of funding must be made public. Real guarantees must be given to protect the state’s institutions from political interference in order to prevent employees from being forcibly mobilized to vote for the SCAF’s candidate, as was the case with the support forms submitted in favor of Ahmed Shafik and Omar Suleiman. Candidates belonging to Mubarak’s regime must be excluded in accordance with the Law of Political Isolation, which was ratified by the People’s Assembly. Immediate investigations must also be opened to review the complaints submitted against Ahmed Shafik and Omar Suleiman.

Without fair rules that guarantee transparency, equal opportunity and the rule of law, the presidential elections will become a new trap to ensnare the revolution and cost us dearly. Holding fair elections might be hard to attain, but it is possible if we all unite to make it a reality. Experience has proven that the SCAF does not move in the right direction unless it is subjected to popular pressure. Only the million-man demonstrations were capable of forcing the Council into accepting revolutionary demands, starting with Mubarak’s trial and extending all the way to excluding Omar Suleiman’s candidacy — even if only temporarily.

Fourth, the revolution must use two tools that are capable of thwarting the conspiracy now underway to destroy the revolution: the squares of protest, constituting the people’s general assembly that birthed the revolution, and Parliament, which can protect the revolution and to achieve its goals.

The state’s institutions are completely under the thumb of the SCAF; starting with the police and State Security Service (which is currently running at full strength), to the military police responsible for dragging Egyptian women through the streets and murdering revolutionary youth, all the way to some judges complicit in the scandalous release of the Americans accused in the foreign-funds case. In other words, the SCAF is still using all of Mubarak’s tools to control the course of events. But if the revolutionary forces were to unite, they would possess for the first time these two tools necessary to bring about change. We saw how Mubarak’s regime was shaken to the core when the People’s Assembly approved the Law on Political Isolation that targeted the former regime’s symbols.

The revolution faces a real threat that forces us to either remain fragmented, hurling accusations and insults at each other so that Mubarak’s regime — God forbid — may put a decisive end to the revolution, or to overcome our differences and immediately unite in order to achieve the revolution’s goals that thousands of Egyptians had already paid for with their blood.

The revolution persists until Egypt is free from tyranny, and God willing, it will succeed.

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.

Sign up for our Newsletter




Cookies help us deliver our services. By using them you accept our use of cookies. Learn more... X