Amongst those who were in favour of the Egyptian revolution there is general agreement that what happened last year was a military coup in every sense of the word. Better late than never, even Alaa’ Al-Aswani wrote recently that what happened in Egypt is exactly what happened in Romania after Nicolai Ceaucescu was overthrown in 1989.
There is also no dispute that the level of repression in Egypt has taken a particularly bloody and ruthless turn. The responses to the state violence are what need to be stopped as many of the youth are calling for even more violence and the use of weapons as a way to address the situation. Such calls for violence have thrown advocates of peace into a pickle yet many of them continue to face violent confrontations directly.
Some supporters of the coup would argue that the pro-democracy protests that have taken place are not peaceful by any means, with the protesters being accused of making bombs and throwing stones and Molotov cocktails; they have also been accused of setting fire to police vehicles. Although only simple weapons are used, that doesn’t stop the attempts to discredit the opposition to the coup. In any case, any attempt to prevent the escalation of violence will not be easy.
There is no need to address those individuals who blame the peaceful protesters for the bombings as they have closed off their minds and let their hatred consume them, especially since an organisation has actually claimed responsibility for the attacks. Many have started to question the authenticity of this group and wonder whether the security forces have hired them to use bombs which can be blamed on the protestors and thus “justify” military oppression, arrests and killings.
It is important to remember that use of systematic violence by the security force to tarnish the protesters’ image is not new in Egypt (for example, the Church of the Saints bombing during the Mubarak era) nor in other countries with similar experiences (like Romania and perhaps even Syria, especially after the first six months, and Algeria before that). However, what should not be overlooked is the need for security officials to be brought to account for the instances where they have misled the public or exploited situations for their benefit.
When the compass is set wrongly, it is easy to influence people’s views and affect their political orientations. It then becomes easy to target their audience. However, when the compass is clear very little can be achieved while spying and collecting information, which means that there is no real threat.
Today in Egypt, a Sinai-based organisation known as Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) has taken responsibility for the bombings. The injustices suffered by the people in this area at the hands of the security forces have made this group popular and helped to spread Salafi jihadist ideology. The organisation’s influence has extended to Cairo and other large cities as bombings continue to occur. It is worth mentioning that supporters of this group should reflect and reconsider their position because linking the Holy City of Jerusalem to violence of this nature damages the question of Palestine. There is also a new group called Agnad Masr, which partakes in similar activities.
It is difficult to advise these groups because they believe that they are partaking in necessary military struggle but they will be subject to more scrutiny as the absurdity of their actions unfolds (especially in Egypt). This type of violence was seen in the eighties and nineties and we well remember the consequences.
What is clear is that there was a schism in Egyptian society both before and after the revolution, and in the varying stances taken on the coup. There are those who were deceived by the narrative of a “June 30th Revolution”, and there is a bias in this as well, which simply means that violence does not sit well with the people but the people’s will is not currently capable of defeating the regime. That will be tough indeed and it all depends on the degree to which the population accepts it.
The balance of power weighs heavily in favour of the regime because it has the army, the security sector, the judiciary, the media and a significant proportion of the population (misled sectarian and partisan supporters) on its side. With few exceptions, the world has come to accept the regime despite its nature. However, much of this support will soon come to an end after the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, in which case the use of armed violence to achieve a desirable result will be highly unlikely.
I emphasise that using violence of this kind is not to confront the Muslim Brotherhood, because it has long been integrated into society and the regime has had the same stance towards it for decades. It is absurd to continue to refer to the movement as the problem or the reason for the violence because it does not have any effect on society and change at this time.
With all this said, although we understand the youth’s frustration over what is happening and all that they are being exposed to in terms of violence, oppression and demonisation, and although we accept that many of them will resort to violence due to the above reasons, we must emphasise for their protection and for the protection of the Egyptian people and Egypt’s future that violence in this situation is useless, for we all know what the end result will be. The best solution (which has already started to take place) remains for people to gather in peaceful protest to confront the police state targeting everyone. This phase will take a long time and will stop and start based on how people interpret factual circumstances. Al-Sisi undoubtedly expects to implement a police state through which the thugs of the Mubarak era will once again gain control and begin to provoke the masses over time.
This type of peaceful resistance may take a great deal of time but it will achieve the desired result and it is more rewarding than any other option, which would force the people to succumb to military rule and give up their right to liberty, stability and security. In this context, people should look to the bitter Algerian experience for wisdom and the Syrian Islamic Brotherhood’s experience in the eighties in order to understand how best to deal with the political circumstances of this time.
Politics and war are not things that tribes engage in unconsciously but are the result of a precise analysis of the balance of power and factual circumstances. Bearing arms without these reasons will prove to be exhausting and fatal, regardless of any legitimate justifications. Furthermore, armed violence is somewhat confusing at this stage in light of societal divisions and the status quo. The truth is that weighing out the pros and cons against accurate interpretations of the balance of power should always govern a movement in any direction, no matter what that direction may be.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.