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No more sacred cows

January 24, 2014 at 11:39 am

Is a British newspaper report of violations against protesters in a military hospital in Cairo defamatory of the Egyptian Armed Forces, justifying hostile official statements? Does it play down the role of the Armed Forces and their role in protecting the revolution in Egypt? I have more questions of this nature which have risen from the angry reverberations in Egypt after the Guardian published information sourced from a report noting that a committee is preparing to investigate cases of violations occurring after the January 25th revolution. It also reported that Egypt’s president ordered the formation of the committee whose report was about 1,000 pages long, some of which has been leaked recently.

I realise that the Guardian report was published at the “wrong” time, when the Armed Forces are being flattered and ingratiated, and people are racing to complement their leaders, driving some to express the hope that the army would return to power. I also realise that some of those weeping today over the time when the military was in power are the same people who called for the fall of the military when the wind blew in that direction. I am not sure if these people truly love the military or if they are only praising its officers because they believe that they are on the rise; of if they have become a part of the group who want to rid themselves of the Muslim Brotherhood at any cost. Whatever the case, the talk spreading nowadays refuting what the Guardian reported, considering it an “insult” to the Armed Forces, conjures up a number of noteworthy points.

First of all, the material reported by the British newspaper includes information that cannot be responded to with accusations, but with corrections, denials or investigations of its veracity. The integrity of the Armed Forces is not being questioned, but we must not forget that the revolution was started to defend the dignity of the Egyptian citizen.

Given that some of the information reported is true, transparency requires an acknowledgement of this on one hand and, on the other, an acknowledgement that this does not slander or minimise the role of the Armed Forces in any way. If, for instance, it is found that violations occurred in Al-Quba Military Hospital, which was mentioned in the newspaper report, then the person responsible should be held accountable, not the Armed Forces as a whole. Such mistakes are possible, even within a disciplined military institution. The same occurred in the United States when some wounded soldiers who returned from Iraq complained about being badly treated in a military hospital. This was reported by Newsweek, which included documents and statements proving what had happened and the matter was dealt with; no one said that it was insulting or slanderous to the role of the Armed Forces.

The information published highlighted the role of the thugs in repressing legitimate protesters and how their involvement in the protests was, and is, organised. This calls for a detailed investigation to reveal the dangerous and dubious role they are playing and the groups or parties they are utilising.

Based on the comments and notes posted on social media networks, I have learned that there has actually been a report mentioned by some activists and representatives from Human Rights Watch in Cairo that was submitted to Egypt’s leadership. If this is true, why has the presidency kept the report and why hasn’t the public seen it?

Criticising any of the Armed Forces’ actions, involving people like us who are not perfect, does not conflict with appreciating its role and respecting its leaders. There is a responsible type of criticism that aims to remove impurities and right wrongs in order for the picture to become clearer. There is a difference between respect and sanctification, and those who want to give the Armed Forces a halo and silence critical voices are mistaken; not only because we prefer respect based on appreciation and conviction over sanctification based on fear, but also because there should be no more sacred cows in Egypt. Along with political immunity, they are part of history, not the present or future. No one is above criticism or accountability. Acknowledging this fact and dealing with it responsibly is an essential part of grasping the post-revolution reality that now exists in Egypt.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.