Let’s not beat about the bush. What happened on Wednesday in Egypt was the use of excessive force by soldiers and police. We have witnessed a massacre in every sense of the word, a massacre the likes of which were carried out by security forces during the final days of President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.
The Egyptian army, with its armoured bulldozers and tanks, fired live ammunition against unarmed civilians who were demanding peacefully the return of democracy and their elected president, Mohammed Morsi. This is how the army decided to end a peaceful sit-in, which lasted six weeks without a single shot being fired or any threat to public security. Government spokesmen and the military spent all of yesterday juggling their roles of “victim” and “villain” by claiming that the protesters were not peaceful and had opened fire against security forces. This is a fallacy.
I followed virtually all of the foreign news channels and paid very close attention to their coverage of the massacres in Rabaa Al-Adawiyya and Al-Nahda Squares from the very first gunshot. Not a single source said that the protests were anything but peaceful. In fact, when a CNN anchor asked prominent news correspondent Jim Clancy whether he had seen any of the protesters carrying guns, he insisted that he did not see a single gun or see anyone shoot at the security forces. He did, however, notice that there were snipers who many believed to be part of the military firing at the protesters.
The Egyptian army has committed a heinous crime in deciding to shed the blood of its own people. It has always remained above all sectarian, ethnic and religious conflicts and divisions by pledging its loyalty to Egypt and its people only, but no longer.
It is expected that the army will have the last word because it is the largest Arab army and has modern weapons. The Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters are armed with slogans and faith that their demands for the return of their elected president are justified.
While it would not be a surprise to see the army clearing out the squares using live ammunition, tanks and bulldozers, killing hundreds and wounding thousands more in the process, it would also not be surprising if the protesters continue their sit-ins for months or even years. These protesters believe that they have been betrayed by the military which robbed them of their electoral legitimacy and transformed them into enemies the minute that they opened fire. Liberal opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters have long accused the group of running in the elections in order to seize power. The Brotherhood proved that these claims were false when the same liberals, supported by the army, carried out the coup and overturned the movement’s democratic legitimacy which had been won through the ballot box.
I do not know how liberals such as Dr Mohamed ElBaradei and his partner in crime Amr Moussa, or even the veteran Hamdeen Sabahi, will be able to face the Egyptian people after standing alongside the army which committed this massacre. How will they justify their shameful position to the families of the injured and the martyrs?
Dismantling the sit-ins through the violence that we witnessed will not put an end to the protests. This could be the beginning of a new, more dangerous, stage in the conflict. The Muslim Brotherhood has roots in Egyptian political life going back more than eighty years; it will not disappear so easily. The movement’s popularity is deep-rooted within the hearts of tens of millions living in the countryside. In fact, the Brotherhood’s popularity continues to increase. This explains why the military has stopped all trains coming into Cairo from numerous Egyptian towns and cities, preventing supporters from joining the protests in the capital.
General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, commander of the military coup and the de facto ruler of Egypt, committed the first of a series of mistakes when he urged anti-Islamist Egyptians to protest and give him a mandate to deal with the crisis. The second mistake was to use violence to break up an otherwise peaceful protest, ending in a massacre. Even if we believe that the Egyptian people gave him such a mandate, it did not call for bloodshed; it called for a peaceful solution that avoided bloodshed and brought stability to the country, helping the poor and needy who were the very people that the revolution was meant to assist.
The crisis in Egypt has entered the critical and dangerous stage that everyone warned against and that is when civil war becomes a possibility. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to control the bloodshed that would result; it would affect the whole region, not just Egypt.
The Egyptian media which support the coup have been focusing solely on whether or not the protesters were armed, for which there is no evidence in support of the claim. The protesters are infused with Islamic ideals and want a return to the democratic process; the use of arms has not been an option, until now. If they want to go underground, then weapons are available easily from Libya, the Sinai, Sudan, Chad, Darfur and other neighbouring countries.
The massacre has confirmed, if such confirmation was needed, that the Mubarak regime did not fall in 2011; it has merely been strengthened. Although Al-Sisi is wearing his military uniform, we can see that he is implementing Mubarak’s pro-US policies for the region.
The Egyptian Revolution has ended. In fact, the revolutions in the other Arab countries have ended as well, although there is no room for me to discuss the reasons for that here. Both Egypt and the Arab world have entered a long dark tunnel and there appears to be no light at the end of it. While Al-Sisi and his liberal partners in crime are the main culprits, America and its Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, must share responsibility. They were in contact with Al-Sisi on a daily basis prior to the coup. At the end of the day, their goal is not to spread democracy, it is to destroy the Arabs, steal their millions and consolidate Israeli power for decades, maybe even centuries, to come. When will we wake up from our coma?
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.