“You left the Egyptians, you turned your back on the Egyptians and they won’t forget that,” was Egypt’s Defense Minister and Armed Forces chief General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s message to the Obama White House. Ever since he took the grave decision to oust a failed president, the US government has issued condemnations, punishments and threats, a stance mirrored by America’s European allies, as well as the mainstream Western media.
Egyptians desperate to move forward with the roadmap that promises parliamentary and presidential elections within nine months, feel abandoned and misunderstood. In the absence of an impeachment mechanism, worried that their country’s identity was under threat, they thronged the streets in their tens of millions; they couldn’t allow Mursi another three years to do his worst. But outside Egypt’s shores, their concerns have been dismissed. American and British left-wingers have swallowed the Muslim Brotherhood’s propagandist arguments thanks, in part, to masters of spin, such as Brotherhood spokesman Gehad el-Haddad, whose columns, claiming that June 30th images were Photoshopped, were lapped up by The Guardian.
Al Jazeera has morphed into an MB mouthpiece, especially Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr that stole broadcast vans from Egyptian State TV, used to air the Brotherhood’s views from the sit-in at Rabaa Adawiya. The host of Al-Jazeera’s popular program Bila Hodod (Without Borders), Ahmed Mansour, was frequently seen on Rabaa’s stage lecturing on how to manipulate the media message. That was when their pro-Mursi slogans were replaced by ‘anti-coup’. On July 26th when millions voted with their feet to give the army a mandate to fight “violence and terrorism”, CNN repeatedly incorrectly tagged videos of the protest outside the Al Ittihadiya Palace as “pro-Mursi supporters”. The Egyptian government was left with no international forum to present its side of events with the result Muslim Brotherhood leaders have become emboldened by outpourings of support from Western capitals.
Today, Egypt is at war with terrorists, both in northern Sinai and within its cities, but the United States - the very country that invented the so-called ‘War on Terror’ targeting Islamist militancy - is going all out to defend the Muslim Brotherhood, demanding its leaders be released from detention, even though many are being investigated for crimes, including espionage, collaborating with a foreign entity, attempted murder, incitement to kill and corruption. The army, the government, even the Sheikh of Al Azhar, have been reaching out to the MB since June 3rd, inviting the organisation to re-join the new political process. They’ve been rebuffed. Likewise, mediators from the US, the EU and the African Union were unsuccessful in persuading the MB to compromise. But the silence in New York, Paris and London over its intransigence was deafening.
In the meantime, pro-Mursi sit-ins in Rabaa and Nahda squares were becoming entrenched. Egyptians were appalled by reports of abductions and torture, confirmed by Amnesty International. Eleven corpses were found dumped in the vicinity of Rabaa. Young men, some with their fingers missing, displayed their wounds on air. People in Egypt were troubled by televised videos of minibuses en route to Rabaa transporting street children and orphans to serve as human shields on the promise of new clothes and food. It was common knowledge within Egypt that protestors were being paid between EGP 50-150 per day ($7.15- $21.45).
There was visual evidence that those sit-ins were far from peaceful; on the contrary, there were armed militias guarding the perimeters and surrounding roofs - both Egyptian and foreign - allegedly lured by EGP 1,500 daily ($214.60). The distraught residents of nearby apartment buildings regularly called TV anchors to complain bitterly about constant noise, their gardens used as toilets, bullets shattering their windows - and of being frisked whenever they left their homes. In the early hours of each morning, hordes of armed men would split-off from those sit-ins to provoke soldiers and police guarding national security installations; they made several attempts to storm police stations as well as Cairo’s Media Village, housing privately-owned television channels.
No country on the planet would permit swathes of their capital to be indefinitely occupied by anti-government elements – and especially not jihadists vowing to sacrifice their lives and those of their children to glorious martyrdom. Again, no condemnatory statements whatsoever from Western governments or the mainstream media! What if thousands of Islamists intent on bringing down the government erected tents and soup kitchens in Times Square! Would Obama pat them on the back, saying ‘there, there’ or would he use the full force of the law to clear them out? Yes, I know, silly question.
What to do about those sit-ins that became a danger to national security was a real dilemma for Egyptian authorities coming under increasing criticism for failing to heed the people’s mandate to tackle violence. The army and the interim government were being pressured by Obama not to forcibly disperse them. When after 40 days of protest, MB leaders ordered their following to set-up new camp sites all over Cairo and around the country, the army and the police received the Interim President’s blessing to make their move. The protestors received numerous warnings to leave quietly and were assured that they needn’t fear arrest. Their defiance only hardened.
August 14th 2013 was one of the darkest days in Egypt’s history. The police used teargas to break-up the encampments while the military blocked side roads to stop MB supporters rushing to the scene. As anticipated, the police came under fire and had to retaliate. MB shrills were heard on CNN and Al Jazeera announcing over 5,000 had been ‘massacred’. One death is too many but the final toll nationwide was in the region of 500, including 45 policemen, 11 shot before their bodies were mutilated. Brotherhood supporters in Upper Egypt torched 16 churches. A sheikh from Al Azhar said they can destroy churches but they cannot destroy the name of Mariam (Mary) in the Quran. The Coptic Pope announced that those churches are offered as a gift to our beloved Egypt.
The ‘peaceful’ Rabaa protestors left behind a sinister legacy during their hurried exit: weapons, a mass grave containing 20 murdered unidentified corpses, a room with implements of torture, a hangman’s noose and at least three bodies wrapped in blankets. A middle-aged Mursi supporter, interviewed by CNN’s Reza Sayah as he emerged from Rabaa Square, raged against the army and pledged that from tomorrow ‘we will all become human bombs’. As I witnessed flames consuming Giza’s historic town hall on August 15th and heard that Brotherhood gangs had gunned down over 40 in Alexandria, I remembered his threat and shuddered.