When the head of military justice tried to defend the article in the new Egyptian constitution that allows civilians to be tried before military courts, he included any person who attacks military installations “and the like”. This applies to all of the army’s economic interests including petrol stations, hospitals, hotels (with their restaurants and wedding halls), building contractors and water production companies, among others. Not unnaturally, he was criticised and ridiculed for this claim, in a public show of rejection of the new constitution. Of course we must protect the armed forces, but is a person working in an army-owned restaurant the same as a soldier on border patrol?
I don’t doubt the good faith of this officer, but his defence of the indefensible is worrying. He obviously forgot that Egyptians are now bolder when it comes to expressing their opinions, and that new technology makes it possible for everyone to say what they think. Hence the resultant ridicule splashed all over the internet and social media sites.
This incident may seem relatively insignificant compared to other issues, but it shows how one thing can lead to another, causing more harm than good. This is demonstrated by the campaigns to defend what happened on June 30th, and defend General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. I do not understand why the January 25th Revolution has to be discredited in order to promote the coup; why are those who supported the former but not the latter called collaborators and why is their patriotism in question? Why are they described as “dogs” simply for calling for early presidential elections?
Banning Basem Yousef’s satirical TV programme, which was scathing about Dr Mohamed Morsi’s regime and person, was one of the biggest mistakes made by the coup regime, although those who took the decision think that in doing so they have protected the government. It actually benefits the Morsi government, about which 30 episodes of sarcastic wit were produced; the coup regime could only handle one episode before it issued the banning order. Yousef said that the fact that it allowed 30 programmes to be aired does Morsi’s regime great credit.
There isn’t enough space to discuss the repressive measures taken to protect the current regime in Egypt and defending its course of action, not least because some have led to scandals which have damaged it instead. However, I don’t understand the arrests of and campaign to discredit the youth of the revolution who expressed their disapproval of the anti-demonstration law, even though these same people were in the front line of opposition to Morsi’s regime on June 30th.
If this is happening to those who supported the coup, one can imagine the repression and torture of those who oppose it, including the detention of a school student because his teacher found him with a ruler with the four-finger Rabaa Al-Adawiyya symbol on it. A girl was suspended from school for wearing a shirt with the same symbol, while an international athlete has had his life destroyed for raising it. It is no secret that a 21 year old young woman was sentenced to eleven years in prison and that students from Al-Azhar University have been sent to prison as well; teenagers have been detained in social care centres. All of this is being discussed by human rights organisations as evidence that Egypt’s justice system and care for human rights are in a dark age.
Forget about the brutal dispersal of mass rallies, though, or the thousands of detainee necessitating new prisons to be built. Much of what is happening actually damages the regime more than if the existing laws had been applied and only those guilty of committing crimes had been jailed. That would not only have protected the integrity of the government but also brought much-needed stability to Egyptian society.
Those doing the most harm to the regime are not the youth on the streets but those who claim to be protecting the government, so it is losing many who might otherwise support it. It is also fair to say that if the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters stayed at home, then those squirming in their seats as they try to outdo each other in support of the coup could end up doing exactly what the Brotherhood wants by dint of their disastrous PR and slip-ups.
This is a translation of the Arabic text published by Shorouk newspaper ion 7 December, 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.