Our sadness is doubled. We went to sleep with the massacre of prisoners while being transferred to Abu Zaabal prison, and woke up to the slaughter of soldiers in Rafah.
In both tragedies, Egyptians had killed other Egyptians, which leads us to say that the two sides share three qualities. First, the killer and victim are Egyptians. Second, all the victims were helpless and innocents who did nothing to warrant their murders. And thirdly, we know nothing about the incidents. We do not know how the former were killed, or why the latter were killed. It is as if we are destined to be content with grieving, holding our hands to our hearts, and praying not to be shocked by another tragedy.
The leaders did not notice these shared qualities, but dealt with the tragedies from another perspective, in which they considered the blood of those killed in the first incident cheap, and those killed in the second precious. Yesterday’s issue of Al Ahram Newspaper, 21 August, did not publish the story of the death of 38 Egyptians being transferred to Abu Zaabal prison on its front page. Instead, it was mentioned at the bottom of its third page and started with the following phrase, “Dr. Hazem El-Beblawi, Egypt’s Prime Minister, stressed that the government will not take the protection of the country’s security from terrorism lightly, explaining that there will be an investigation into the circumstances of the accident and death of 37 Muslim Brotherhood prisoners while being transported in a convoy.”
On the other hand, news of the death of 25 soldiers in Rafah was the headline on the front page, and they were described as “some of Egypt’s best who sacrificed their pure souls while carrying out their noble duty of protecting the country and its people.” The report then mentioned the meeting between the President and defence and interior ministers to investigate the matter. It mentioned that the minister of interior mourned the police martyrs, the telephone conversation between the Prime Minister and ministers of justice and interior who discussed what happened in Rafah; and another phone call to Dr El- Beblawi to discuss what happened to the prisoners being transferred to Abu-Zaabal prison.
I have no reservations appreciating the standing of the murdered soldiers. I acknowledge that they deserved to be praised. However, my reservations are against the contempt meted out to the other Egyptians and the disregard of their dreadful fate. Moreover, if the images of the dead soldiers laid on the ground with their hands ties behind them made us cry, then the images of those killed and maimed in the convoy frightened and chilled us to our cores. It gave us a sense of humiliation and shame. These innocent individuals were not given a trial or charged, but were humiliated in life and death until their souls were returned to their Creator.
I doubt that the fate that linked the two scenes and showed the bitter contrasts can be forgotten. I also warn against storing layers of grief haunted by humiliation. We must all be reminded that volcanoes are generally formed by the accumulation of land and sea topography and its melting in the depth of the soil to the point that the crust can no longer bear its temperature; ultimately leading to the explosion and release of lava. Therefore, from now on, we cannot rule out the scenario of an explosion of grief and should fear its manifestations.
On another level, the entire matter is surrounded by mystery, as we know nothing about the charges directed at the prisoners being transported to Abu Zaabal prison. It is worth noting that they were not all affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, nor were they all Islamists. One of the victims was an official of the Ghad El-Thawra Party from the Faiyum province. Moreover, there has been conflicting talk regarding the ugly manner in which they were killed. Some reports asserted they were killed inside the prison; others said they were suffocated in a sealed convoy. While some say they were tortured and shot, others say they were suffocated by a gas bomb. In any case, we haven’t heard a clear opinion from any credible non-governmental source, and instead, we are left prey to confusion and rumours.
The same confusion and rumours follow us in the case of the killing of 25 soldiers, which mimics the incident of the murder of 16 soldiers two Ramadans ago. We neither understood what had happened at the time (isn’t it odd that this has remained a mystery for over a year?); nor did we understand what happened this time. Moreover, there has been turmoil and a semi-war going on in Sinai for months. This means that the military and security administrations failed to gain the respect and trust of the tribes in the area, and that the death of politics in Egypt has affected the Sinai as well. Furthermore, the Camp David Accords was a disaster for us and them, and this requires us to reconsider all the circumstances, which I doubt the current government is able to do, especially since its real leadership are outside politics.
This is a translation of the Arabic which appeared in Al Sharq Newspaper, 21 August 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.