He landed in his aircraft on festival day and gathered the sorcerers and masses at the airport to welcome him, in a cheap and comedic scene. He brought together sheikhs, priests, the old, the young and children who were sleepy and had no idea why they were taken there and why they were made to hold the Pharaoh’s picture with the words “development man” on it. Pharaoh, though, doesn’t know what development means. All he knows is that his fellow Egyptians, even those who completed their education, are largely unemployed; their fathers cannot meet their family’s basic needs; and their mothers are yelling about the hardships of life.
A number of simple and hardworking people, whose misery and hardship is apparent on their faces, gathered to welcome him. This was probably a deliberate attempt to show that despite their suffering, ordinary citizens support him even though he has built palaces. This could be an alternative to gathering the elite individuals who benefit from him and are always shown at his side in what is called the Youth Conference. Or maybe the elite were not there because it was too early in the morning and they did not want to wake up; only the ordinary citizens get to wait several hours for the Pharaoh to arrive.
The Pharaoh has travelled a lot since he came to power, and almost never summons the masses to greet him, so why did he call them this time? This question is answered by the fear, horror and anxiety which has plagued the regime since the emergence of the contractor and actor Mohamed Ali on the scene, and confirmed the popular discontent with the tyrant. The open discontent has even reached the state institutions. Never have the masses gathered along with the entire government and figures from the church and Al-Azhar at the airport to welcome a president; not since Mubarak’s return from Ethiopia after surviving an assassination attempt, at least. This was an attempt to deny any discontent that everyone sees but the regime denies. It is ironic that the scene at the airport confirmed what it was meant to deny.
Despite his authority and glory, the Pharaoh looked like a beggar asking for sympathy and kind words to help him overcome his fear, which was apparent in his eyes. His voice shook and he trembled when he addressed the masses, saying that if he were to ask for a mandate, millions would come out for him. We have heard this before.
Pharaoh came back from the US armed with Trump’s support. Any political analyst or observer with a good understanding of revolutions and how tyrants have fallen throughout history would know that such rulers do not surrender easily. They cling to power and defend themselves to the last, as we see with the murderer Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, and Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir.
Nevertheless, there have been deliberate leaks and video footage of some army and police officers suggesting that the army would stage a coup against Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and want cover for this to appear as a popular revolution, as happened on 30 June, 2013. They would want this to end with a statement from the army on the overthrow of Al-Sisi, not least because Article 200 of the amended Constitution allows this to happen. It states that the Armed Forces should “preserve the constitution and democracy, maintain the basic pillars of the state and its civilian nature, and uphold the gains of the people, and the rights and freedoms of individuals.”
Such terminology in the Constitution makes some analysts believe that this could be used in favour of the popular demands as manifested in recent protests in Egypt. They also believe that it gives Constitutional cover for the Armed Forces to intervene and call for a transitional phase before early presidential elections after Sisi is ousted.
It is thus ironic that Sisi himself insisted on this amendment. The magic will not backfire on the magician, he may think, although Defence Minister Mohammed Zaki was the head of the Republican Guard during Mohamed Morsi’s presidency and then violated his oath, betrayed Morsi and arrested him.
Social media activists have used the words of this amendment as if the matter has already been decided. Was this coincidence, or is there someone pushing them from behind the scenes to adopt such an approach?
These factors have raised the ceiling of expectations of the majority of the people; their hopes and aspirations have prevailed over the reality of the situation. Their dreams and reality have become confused, causing some to feel frustrated.
If we look objectively at what happened on the “Friday of Salvation” we find that the people have accomplished what has not been achieved over the past six years, and it is indeed the beginning of their salvation. They should be proud that they managed, with the help of God, to cast away the fear from their hearts and put it in the heart of the tyrant and his men.
The pillars of the regime are shaking, to the point that Cairo has been turned into a military barracks. No one can approach it or film there. All of the big squares and streets leading to them have been closed down and the city has been filled with barriers and tanks. All of the major metro stations are closed and Cairo looks like an occupied city, apart from Al-Manasa district in Nasr City, where a protest in support of the tyrant was organised.
They organised it specifically to counter the Friday of Salvation, as Mubarak did before the 25 January Revolution in 2011. It was a cheap effort, as they used the peoples’ desperate situation in order to fake images to show to the world. They also forced companies from various municipalities to send their employees to take part, taking them there in special vehicles. Each individual was paid between $6-$12 plus lunch, juice and water to be in the pro-regime “protest”, where they waved Egyptian flags and pictures of the Pharaoh and were protected by the army and police, while aircraft flew overhead.
Singers and actors attended and a concert was held in which they sang songs of love for the tyrant, near the Memorial for the Unknown Soldier, at the same time that 19 officers and soldiers were martyred in Sinai at the hands of brutal terrorists. They sang and danced over the remains of the martyrs but did not feel any shame and stop the farce. Even the media was afraid to spoil the fun of these corrupt individuals so did not report the Sinai incident, but continued to cover the shameful celebration all day, as if nothing else had happened.
Meanwhile, the army and police forces were on high alert on the streets of Cairo and other governorates, which witnessed the same measures as the capital; their squares and streets were also closed to the masses to protect the tyrant against the people. Our soldiers in Sinai were left vulnerable to the terrorists. The life of the tyrant is more important than the lives of soldiers and their officers, and even more important than the lives of all Egyptians put together.
Terrorism was a possibility, said Sisi after his military coup when he took a mandate from the people to fight against it. Now it is a reality on the ground. It is a fact from which he derives his continued stay in office. This is the bogey that Pharaoh uses to scare the Egyptian people and justify the oppression of his political opponents. It is also how he gains support from abroad. So what would he want from the new mandate that he hinted at when he arrived at the airport from the US last week?
Whatever it was, we are in a new phase of the revolution’s second wave. We have taken the first step towards toppling the tyrant. This phase requires patience, as Pharaoh will continue to rule with an iron grip, but this is no way to run a viable state for ever. Moreover, the image of the regime cannot be beautified by some hired hands, opportunists and media personalities who sing the praises of the tyrant; this is true of any regime. Such opportunists will quickly shed their skins when the tyrant is overthrown, and will adopt something more suited to the new ruler.
Even relying on the satisfaction of his friends overseas, especially Trump, is a gamble that he is likely to lose, because he will not stay in power long if he does not gain popular acceptance in Egypt. We saw the early signs of the change in foreign attitudes in the statements made by the US State Department and the European Union confirming the right of the people to demonstrate. That tells us that the Pharaoh has become a heavy burden on them. Repression does not bring stability, as the German Foreign Ministry said, while Chancellor Angela Merkel cancelled a meeting with Sisi scheduled on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
The people will continue to protest; they will not grow tired or bored. Instead, they will become innovative with their protests and will find alternative places to hold them, away from the squares that are now surrounded by barriers and tanks. They will surprise the state security apparatus.
The battle is a long one that requires much patience, and whoever tires first will lose. The people usually possess more patience and perseverance, and so will be victorious. Sudan’s protests needed four months before the tyrant was overthrown; in Algeria, the protests have been ongoing for seven months and the military has been unable to silence the people. Egypt’s revolution train started rolling in September and will not stop, God willing, until it reaches its final destination: the Great Fall Station on the day of salvation from Sisi’s tyranny.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.