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Mubarak may have died, but his state hasn’t

Former President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak on 23 March 2007 [Zekeriya Albayrak/Anadolu Agency]
Former President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak on 23 March 2007 [Zekeriya Albayrak/Anadolu Agency]

The tyrant Hosni Mubarak may have stopped breathing on 26 February, but he actually “died” on 11 February, 2011 when the Egyptian people overthrew him in the great 25 January Revolution. He was buried nine years later, during which time he experienced a small dose of the humiliation and disgrace that he imposed on his people for 30 years. Nevertheless, they quickly forgot his fascist tyranny and the crimes he committed against them, as well as his devastation of Egyptian education, health, agriculture, production and the economy. Indeed, many Egyptians went as far as to mourn him; even worse, some of the icons of the revolution did as well, such as Dr Mohamed El-Baradei, Dr Ayman Nour, Hamdeen Sabahi, Dr Mohamed Mahsoub, Dr Essam Hajji and Wael Ghoneim.

Such forgiveness is misplaced, and is unacceptable for tyrants after their death, as it corrupts the historical record and distorts collective memory. Tyrants do not deserve to be mourned, and while Mubarak escaped a fair trial in this world, he will now face the Divine judgement from which he cannot escape. He will not only be tried for the crimes he committed against Egypt, but also those against the entire Arab people. His lawyer Farid Al-Deeb will be unable to defend him and forge his record, as he forged documents in this life. The judge in the hereafter knows our every action, no matter how big or small.

As far as Mubarak is concerned, his record shows three decades during which Egypt lived under his fascist dictatorship as he killed politics in Egypt. He was stubborn and would not reverse any decision, even if it was a mistake. He hated being opposed and so tailored the opposition to his liking using his security agencies. All he cared about was cementing his rule, claiming that he wanted Egypt to be stable when, in reality, it was gripped by stagnation and stalemate, not stability. Because he was aware of his limited abilities, all promising leaders were removed and he would not allow them to be nurtured. Nobody outside his direct control was tolerated, which allowed him to groom his son Gamal to inherit the presidency.

Under Mubarak, state institutions were devastated as corruption escalated to such an extent that the corrupting agencies became stronger than the institutions. The public sector was sold under the cover of privatisation and his sons were left to tamper with state property and wealth, stealing billions of dollars which were deposited in US and Swiss banks. According to John Kerry, the former US Vice President, Mubarak’s wealth in the US alone was estimated at $31.5 billion; the US has frozen the accounts. Meanwhile, Switzerland announced that he has over $700 million deposited there. The Guardian reported after the January Revolution that the Mubarak family’s wealth was estimated at $70 billion, distributed amongst banks in Britain and Switzerland, in addition to some private property in the US and UK.

Under his rule, agriculture was completely destroyed, with the introduction of carcinogenic pesticides alleged to have cause the deaths from cancer and liver failure of millions of Egyptians. Moreover, Mubarak’s prisons were filled with thousands of prisoners who were brutally tortured; he was responsible for the death of hundreds of passengers and crew who were on board the MV Salem Express ferry that sank in the Red Sea in 1991, and for killing hundreds of demonstrators during the January Revolution.

The ousted President must also take a share of the responsibility for crimes against several Arab countries, including Iraq. It was Mubarak who told the Americans that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical weapons, the main excuse given for the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation. And it was Mubarak who tightened the Israeli-led siege of the Gaza Strip after Hamas won the 2006 elections; war was declared on the enclave by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni while she was actually in Egypt.

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Egypt’s declining regional role was given up voluntarily to Israel, Turkey and Iran, and under Mubarak’s rule, the country’s role in Africa was also lost.

The Israelis wept at the news of his death, as he was their “strategic treasure”. As President of Egypt, he signed a deal with Israel to sell gas at below the market rate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his obituary that it was a warm relationship.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg; his failures over the three decades of his presidency cannot be counted. He left Egypt suffering from poverty, ignorance, disease and backwardness, and the effects of what he did will remain forever, so how could the Egyptian people overlook it all and mourn him? Some say that things are much worse now, and they mourn the fact that he is gone and unable to help, but the situation they are in now was caused by his rule. It is the natural result of the seeds that Mubarak planted.

Thus, it is difficult to interpret this case of Stockholm syndrome, in which the victims sympathise with the villain. How can they have toppled him, singing and dancing in the streets at their victory, and now cry over his death?

For a possible explanation for this incomprehensible situation we need to go back in time to the openly military state and the March 1954 crisis between the members of the Revolutionary Command Council and the demand for President Mohamed Naguib to hand over power to the people. The people chanting in support of Naguib were influenced by Gamal Abdel Nasser, who turned them against the President and democracy itself.

This same nation can applaud one thing and then applaud the opposite at the same time, as happened after Nasser’s speech when Syria seceded from the “United Arab Republic” in a 1961 coup. He said that he sent the military to end the coup and maintain unity. The people jumped out of their seats and applauded his words. Then he said that he had decided to preserve Arab blood and not allow Arabs to fight their fellow Arabs. Again, they applauded his words.

The same nation took to the streets on 9 and 10 June 1967 after a bitter defeat at the hands of Israel and the occupation of their land to urge the leader of the defeat not to step down. The same people showed up in their millions at Nasser’s funeral, lamenting and weeping over the man who humiliated and tortured them, and are now mourning Mubarak after overthrowing him in a great revolution. They are the nation raised in the military barn for over 70 years, during which they were brainwashed.

Egyptians can display tolerance and forgiveness, and can forget abuse. They are also generally patient and peaceful; as a largely agricultural country, their work requires patience and the ability to tolerate frequent monotony. Their long history carries with it a legacy of persecution and injustice.

The perception that the ruling class is superior, whatever its form — pharaonic, monarchy of military — is established deep in the conscience of the Egyptians. They are the masters and the people are the servants. There are many Egyptian proverbs that express the people’s submission to their rulers and being humiliated rather than resisting injustice and confronting the oppressor.

We believed that they had rid themselves of these negative personality traits after the January Revolution in which they chanted, “Hold your head high, you are Egyptian” and elected a president from amongst them, from their class; the peasant class. Dr Mohamed Morsi lived like them in a rented apartment, not in a mansion. He ate what they ate and did not place himself above them. There were no more servants and masters and he never made them feel that way. However, instead of being happy about having their humanity and dignity restored, they toppled Morsi. This is not the article to speak of the conspiracy plotted against him in the UAE, nor will I talk about the Tamarod intelligence movement. I am interested in the people, who were seduced and who took to the streets to dance and chant to the rhythm of “Tislam El-Ayadi” or “May these hands be safe”, on the day that the legitimate elected president was overthrown. This is the same nation which was tortured by the leaders to whom they are returning voluntarily. It was an easy next step to return to the servant-master scenario.

Carcinogenic pesticides: Mubarak’s pernicious legacy for Egypt

The grand military funeral held for Hosni Mubarak firmly established this concept, along with the medals and decorations that the soldiers carried as they walked before his coffin and the cannons roared in his honour. It is as if they wanted to cloak him in piety, despite his criminal record. According to the law and constitution, he should not have had a military funeral, but it is foolish to speak of law and the constitution in a country which has gone back to singing and dancing to the tune of the rulers and their compliant media.

The funeral, the presidency’s official mourning, flying the flags at half-mast and the media’s celebration of a falsified history all demonstrate the extent of the loyalty of the ruling class towards each other. Even if the leader was corrupt or treacherous, he must be honoured.

Mubarak’s funeral was also the regime sending a message to the people of Egypt that the January Revolution is dead and buried forever, and that they shouldn’t dare think of reviving it.

The examples of Presidents Mubarak and Morsi illustrate that, since 1952, the ruling class has differentiated between the military and civilians; the former are the masters and the latter are the servants, regardless of how superior they are in knowledge and education. All of the media outlets in Egypt ignored the death of President Mohamed Morsi, as if he never ruled Egypt, and the authorities did not allow a funeral to be held for him or for him to be buried in his village, as he had requested. He was instead buried secretly at night in a cemetery on the outskirts of Cairo in the presence of his immediate family members, nobody else.

Mubarak may have died and been buried, but his “deep state” hasn’t. It is still ruling Egypt.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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