As part of his desperate and relentless fight against the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is using a blockbuster Ramadan drama to demonise the Islamic group and show himself the hero who saved Egypt and the Egyptians from the outlawed political party.
Since carrying out his military coup against the first ever freely elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in 2013, Al-Sisi has been involved in a one-sided battle against the Muslim Brotherhood to which Morsi belonged.
Al Ikhtiyar 3 (The Choice 3) is the third installment of a political series, which started to be shown on the screens at the start of the holy month of Ramadan. While Egyptians had been renowned for watching pure comic drama during the 30 days of the holy month, the country's military regime has insisted on introducing this political series.
By carrying out its coup in 2013, the Egyptian army led by then Defence Minister Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi ended the country's brief democratic experiment which started after the 25 January Revolution of 2011.
Thereafter, the military crushed the mass popular protests against the coup by carrying out a series of bloody massacres that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Egyptians. Tens of thousands were detained and freedom of the press was effectively suppressed.
Several prominent Egyptian actors have championed this docudrama, which was produced by Synergy Art Production, a filmmaking company owned by the Egyptian army. A number of critics claimed that some actors were obliged by the military to take part in this series. Renowned actor Yasser Jalal was chosen by Al-Sisi personally to portray him and be the hero of the series.
In this series, President Mohammed Morsi, who died in prison, appears very weak against Al-Sisi, who turned down most of his orders, purportedly to undermine supposed Muslim Brotherhood's plans to destroy Egypt. In this manner, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Sisi's political opponents, are demonised and El Sisi is portrayed as a saviour.
The series could be classified as a reality show or docudrama because the author, Hani Sarhan, and the producer, Peter Mimi, inserted several factual footages and audios of Morsi's meetings with Al-Sisi and the Head of the Egyptian Military Council, Hussein Tantawi, who headed the country during the transitional period that lasted from February 2011 to June 2012.
However, the direct interference of Al-Sisi in authoring and producing this drama has diverted it from its main goal, which was to rewrite the history of the military coup and turned it into a comedy. Al Iktiyar trended on social media in the Arab world for several days at the start of Ramadan, with many users attacking Al-Sisi and supplicating God's blessings on Morsi.
Significantly, the authentic footages which the producer of the series used to damage Morsi's image and legacy proved just the opposite; that Morsi was a principled and strong president who stood strong before the military institution which plotted to suppress the 25 January Revolution and take control of the country.
"There was missing information about certain stages during Morsi's rule," prominent Egyptian novelist and political analyst, Salim Azzouz, told Al Jazeera. "The so-called leaks which are owned only by the army and appeared in Al Ikhtiyar, proved that Morsi had exerted much effort to prevent the military coup."
"They are only trying to erase from our memory the images of the real Sisi, standing before him [Morsi] with his head bowed and submissive, sitting like a shy girl in front of her fiance," a social media user wrote. Morsi appears in this footage threatening Tantawi of changing the results of the elections as the army had delayed their announcement for a week. A pro-Sisi journalist, Mustafa Bakry, reported a military official telling Morsi's opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, that he won the elections.
Exiled Egyptian actor Amr Waked has called the series a "comedy" that presents a reality quite different from the one Egyptians "lived and observed."
This series, according to critics, is clear evidence that Egypt is run by a dictatorship. It is, for the first time, that an Egyptian president has agreed to be depicted in a drama while he is still alive. Here, we see the president not only asking to be portrayed but also being involved in directing the drama.
Rassd news network attributed this development to El Sisi's recognition that he has been losing support, even among the sectors that backed his military coup. They often cite his dismal failure in running the country and resolving its many crises.
In this series, El Sisi has involved himself in a battle with an opponent that is completely absent – the Muslim Brotherhood. The group has been outlawed; its members and leaders have been jailed; its supporters persecuted and hounded; its welfare, educational and medical charities were either closed or handed over to the government and other groups, and yet the ranks of its supporters continue to grow while it is demonised by the Egyptian media.
One of the most ironical features of this series is that it shows Al-Sisi defending the freedom of the press and mass media, while he is putting Egypt on the blacklist of freedom indexes around the globe. Freedom House's annual study of political rights and civil liberties worldwide said: "Egypt is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2022."
Freedom House also stated that Al-Sisi "has governed Egypt in an increasingly authoritarian manner. Meaningful political opposition is virtually nonexistent, as expressions of dissent can draw criminal prosecution and imprisonment. Civil liberties, including press freedom and freedom of assembly, are tightly restricted." In one of his speeches, Al-Sisi told the military officers that they would not be prosecuted over carrying out violations.
Currently, according to Reporters Without Borders, there are over 100 journalists enduring harsh conditions inside Al-Sisi Sisi jails.
Waked said: "We all know who the liar and deceiver is; (Sisi) said he would not run for elections and would save people from poverty but instead ended up being a politician that sold the country." Meanwhile, exiled Egyptian Youtuber Abdullah al Sharif said, "We know very well who said he would die for Egypt and then died for it, and who will die for it, but he stole it."
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.