By Roger Annis, Feb. 10, 2014
An international letter campaign against repression in Egypt has been initiated. It consists of a short letter/statement and invitation to sign online. The campaign website is here.
The letter is a response to the repressive and deteriorating political situation in Egypt. I believe the letter is flawed politically; potential signators will decide if the flaws outweigh the merits.
The letter makes no reference to the coup of last July and to those who have been the primary victims of the repression since then–the supporters of the ousted government. It does not mention the most egregious of the political measures of the coup, which are the jailings of the elected president and his leadership circle, the staging of a mock trial against them, and the outright banning in late December of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
The letter states, “Since the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, one government after another has pledged to hold the state’s security apparatus accountable for its abuses of Egyptian citizens, and one government after another has failed to do so.” In other words, the coup event is dissolved into a seamless string of repressive governments since the overthrow of Mubarak in 2011.
Letter organizers will no doubt argue that the choice of phrasing is required in order to gain the broadest support to a campaign of opposition to the repression of the coup regime. I believe that’s a false argument. The choice of wording has the letter hewing to the political line being expressed in commentaries in Egypt and abroad of favouring some of the victims of the repression over others, namely, those termed the ‘revolutionaries’ in Egypt who oppose the Muslim Brotherhood.
An example of this is a latest, brief article in the online journal of the International Socialist Organization in the U.S. It provides a description of the repression in Egypt without providing much information on who is being targeted and why. It cites favorably a new article in The Guardian by Egyptian novelist and political commentator Ahdaf Soueif in which she, too, falls short on specifics about the repression and ‘disappears’ the coup. (“The people felt so betrayed by the Brotherhood that they decided to fall into the generals’ arms.”)
Ahdaf Soueif describes the constellation of forces that have lined up with the army and then goes on:
The [Muslim] Brotherhood tried to win the people back by force [following the July coup] and killed several of them in clashes across the country, and so the people didn’t bat an eye when the generals massacred hundreds of Brotherhood supporters in August . Now the media would have us believe the people are joyously wedded to the military and the government…
Outside both groups are the revolutionaries who reject this polarization…
These revolutionaries are the people both sides would like to co-opt – or destroy. They are the “fifth column”, the “sleeper cells”, the “paid agents of enemy powers”, the “profit-making activists”. The government makes overtures towards them while it smears them and arrests them on ridiculously false charges. The Brotherhood berates them for not joining its street protests – forgetting that, when in power, its militias tortured these same people and killed their friends for protesting.
It’s in following the fortune of these people that we can track the revolution.”
This ‘people vs the Brotherhood’ position was the false strategy that created so much confusion, and worse, during and after the coup in July 2013. Discussions on the lessons of that experience remain crucially important for the left internationally. John Rees of Counterfire in the UK has made a very useful contribution to this in a recent article.
Canadian PM endorses July 2013 military coup
Speaking on January 22, 2014 at Tel Aviv University during the final day of his visit to Israel, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he welcomes the “return to stability” in Egypt following the military coup last July. Here is an excerpt from a report in the Toronto Star:
Three years after the Arab Spring sparked hopeful revolution, Harper gave a sobering review of the outcome in Egypt, saying the hoped-for democracy never materialized, at least not yet.
Given the “unbridled” enthusiasm many in the West had for the revolution in Egypt, Harper said that those optimists should now be “chastened” by what unfolded.
Instead of producing a democracy, the change resulted in an “authoritarian, Islamic” state, Harper said, referring to the election of former president Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
“We want elections to lead to democracy and to the things we understand that are important for human rights and prosperity and security in the long term,” Harper said.
Morsi was removed from office in July 2013 and while protests still occur, Harper said he welcomed the “return to stability.”
“At the same time we understand that if the new government is to be truly successful over time in Egypt, they do have to transition towards a democratic order, obviously with respect for human rights and the rule of law,” he said.
And unless steps are taken to “strengthen” progressive forces in the country, Egypt runs the risk that “forces from the street . . . run out of control.”
From ‘Stephen Harper warns of Middle East instability‘, by Bruce Campion-Smith, Toronto Star, Jan 22, 2013
The Star penned a good editorial two weeks ago condemning the coup as well as Harper’s pro-coup politics expressed in Israel. It calls Harper’s stand “shockingly callous”.
Derrick O’Keefe published a commentary on the Harper visit to Israel in the Georgia Straight weekly online. He writes, “… the prime minister’s remarks in Tel Aviv remind us that he has consistently put ‘stability’ above ‘democracy’, ignoring or belittling popular movements for freedom and justice.”
The Globe and Mail report on Harper’s comments while in Israel is here. It reports that last summer, Harper “shrugged at the coup” in Egypt.
Repression in Egypt continues
Protest rallies and marches against the Egypt coup took place in seven Canadian cities on January 25. You can find details on the Facebook page of the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy.
Egypt’s military reacted harshly to protests on January 25 against its coup and its ongoing repression. Journalists were specifically targeted. They were shot, beaten and jailed, as this news report describes.
CBC is reporting that ‘terrorism’ related criminal charges have been laid by Egyptian authorities against 20 Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt who were arrested last year, including imprisoned Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy. He is the Egypt bureau chief of Al Jazeera. Two important articles on this story as well as the story of another Canadian imprisoned in Egypt appeared in the Globe and Mail on Feb. 7:
* ‘Journalists press Ottawa to help free Canadian jailed in Egypt’, by James Bradshaw, Globe and Mail, Feb. 7, 2014
* There’s another ‘Canadian’ in an Egyptian prison [Khaled al-Qazzaz]. Why the silence?’ , by Patrick Martin,
Globe and Mail, Feb 7, 2014
Meanwhile, in other news:
* The elected president of Egypt who was overthrown by the military last July made a second appearance on January 29 in the show trial of he and his colleagues. Mohamed Morsi was held in a soundproof cage in the courtroom, but he and his colleagues nonetheless staged another defiant and courageous courtroom presence.
* The National Council of Canadian Muslims has launched a legal action against the Canadian government and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, demanding a retraction and apology for a ‘terrorism’ smear made against it last month. Harper and his office were responding to criticisms by the Council of the composition and visiting plan of the upcoming, Harper-led delegation to Israel.