Egypt’s Reign of Terror
by Stephen Lendman
Mark Twain once said history doesn’t repeat. It rhymes. French history includes la Terreur (the Reign of Terror). Dickens called it the best and worst of times.
It began in 1789. It promised “liberte, egalite and fraternite. It lasted a decade. It ended a millennium of monarchal rule. It was socially and politically disruptive. It was violent.
The wrong people gained power. Jacobins initially were revolutionary moderates. They were patriots. They turned violent. Thousands were arrested. Civil liberties were suspended.
Laws passed designating counter-revolutionaries state enemies. Undefined crimes against liberty were charged. Orwell called them “thoughtcrimes.”
Vigilante justice was imposed. Kangaroo tribunals pronounced guilt by accusation. Guillotine executions killed thousands. Promised liberte, egalite and fraternite was illusory.
Today’s Egypt reflects earlier times. Its elected president was ousted. Junta rule replaced him. It’s repressive, ruthless, violent, unrelenting and unforgiving.
Sweeping crackdowns continue. Muslim Brotherhood leaders are targeted. Hundreds were arrested. Others went underground. Everyone supporting MB is threatened. Police states operate that way.
Throughout MB’s 85 year history, it suffered repression, arrests, imprisonments and torture.
It reinvented itself several times. It did so unsuccessfully. Popular opposition reflects justifiable criticism.
Freedom and Justice (F&J) party rule featured neoliberal harshness. Progressive taxation legislation was gutted.
F&J spurned a draft labor law. Passage would have guaranteed independent unionism. It promised free workplace elections.
F&J officials replicated Mubarakism. It sided with business. It proposed strike regulations. The International Labor Organization blacklisted Egypt. It did so for spurning core labor rights.
Morsi ignored court ordered stoppage of public enterprise privatizations. He planned doing so at fire sale prices. He spurned competitive bidding.
His November constitutional declaration enraged large sectors of society. He was accused of “Brotherizing” Egypt.
Ousting him reflected much more than misgovernance. Mubarak loyalists targeted him. They waged a destabilization campaign. They did so for months.
Parliament was dissolved. Police refused to maintain public order. Courts acquitted former Mubarak officials. In May, Reporters Without Borders designated MB leaders predators of press freedom.
It never targeted Mubarak the same way. State terror defined his rule. Constitutional rights were suspended. Emergency Law powers denied press freedom. They were widely detested.
Sweeping arrests were made. Mass detentions followed. So did torture. No quarter was given. Iron fist rule was policy.
So was guilt by accusation. Innocence was no defense. Military tribunals were farcical. Justice was systematically denied.
Activists, dissidents, Islamists, and anyone perceived threatening authorities were vulnerable to persecution, arrest and imprisonment.
Elections when held were shams. Death sentences were freely imposed. Freedom of speech, assembly and association were greatly compromised.
Egyptians hoped Morsi offered change. He disappointed. He fell far short of expectations. Mubarak loyalists took full advantage. For months, Morsi was demonized. He was delegitimized.
Criticism overreached. Anti-Morsi propaganda pilloried him. It far exceeded justifiable misgovernance claims.
Opposition National Salvation Front (FSN) officials allied with Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) generals. They did so with other Mubarak loyalists.
Ousting Morsi made things worse. Junta power terrorizes Egypt. State media ban independent journalists. Some television stations were shuttered.
Interim leaders instituted a ministry of information. Controlling the message is prioritized. Opposition elements are terrorized.
MB officials are prime targets. On August 20, Mohammed Badie was arrested. He’s detained. He’s MB’s Supreme Guide spiritual leader.
Since 2010, he headed Egypt’s international MB organization. He was a member of its governing council since 1996.
Badie’s two top aides were arrested. Hundreds of MB officials and supporters are imprisoned. Egypt Interior Ministry confirmed Badie’s detention, saying:
“Carrying out the decisions of the public prosecutor to arrest and bring forward the ‘general guide’ of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie, and through collected information and observation of movements, it was possible for the criminal search apparatus under the direction of Cairo’s security (services) to arrest him.”
He’s charged with inciting violence and murder. On August 25, he’ll stand trial. So will his two top deputies. They face kangaroo court justice. Guilt’s already pronounced.
MB’s Freedom and Justice Party said deputy leader Mahmoud Ezzat will replace Badie. He’ll be temporary Supreme Guide.
MB’s official English web site IkhwanWeb headlined “Anti-Coup National Alliance Calls for Boycott Campaign in Preparation for Civil Disobedience.”
“The coalition of groups and movements defending democracy and constitutional legitimacy warns against dragging Egypt into civil war, urging a boycott of hostile military-controlled media and products made by all those who support the coup.”
“Egypt is passing through the most difficult and dangerous conditions in its thousands of years’ history, which threaten its stability and unity and push it into a deadly spiral of violence from which there is no way out.”
Security forces committed “heinous massacres. (T)he Egyptian people refused to succumb.”
“(S)ecurity forces and thugs went mad. (S)nipers fir(ed) live (rounds) into unarmed crowds.”
They did so from rooftops and police helicopters. They killed protesters in Abu Zaabal prison.
They did it “after torturing and burning them with poisonous gases. “They “committ(ed) war crimes and crimes against humanity – crimes against the sons of their homeland.”
They “orchestrated a campaign of misinformation to demonize and dehumanize their opponents who still insisted on a return to legitimacy and rejection of the coup.”
State controlled media support it. So do private media controlled by “dubious businessmen.”
“They turned facts upside down, lied repeatedly, exposed their own lies, and even committed most reprehensible crimes against innocent Egyptians in order to cover up their earlier heinous crimes.”
MB calls for mass civil disobedience. It urges:
- boycotting regime supportive media;
- boycotting businesses providing support and financing;
- boycotting products from supportive countries;
- “(e)scalating civil disobedience activities gradually, according to circumstances and events.”
“You have only two options: submission or genocide.”
“But our will is strong. We shall continue our non-violent struggle for the restoration of full legitimacy.”
On August 20, The New York Times headlined “An Egypt Arrest, and a Brotherhood on the Run,” saying:
“Egypt’s authoritarian government has harassed and repressed the Muslim Brotherhood for most of its existence.”
“But for the last three decades the authorities stopped short of touching the group’s revered leader, the supreme guide, who oversaw the country’s most effective social, political and religious organization despite its outlawed status.”
Badie’s arrest changed things. Most MB leaders are imprisoned. Others are dead, missing or disappeared.
Those still at large live on the run. “They change locations every 24 hours, avoid showing their faces at demonstrations or public places, and stay off cellphones for fear that they might be tracked.” said The Times.
An unnamed MB official said:
“Asking about the structure of the organization now is like asking a dying man how his career is doing.”
Harsh crackdowns continue. They exceed the worst MB experienced throughout its history. It augurs greater repression ahead.
Brute force controls Egypt. State terror is official policy. Longer term, millions of Egyptians support MB.
They’re not going away. MB official Gehad el-Haddad said crisis promises “a new tier of youth leaders.”
For now, things are disrupted. MB again needs to reinvent itself. It needs more than urging supporters to remain steadfast.
Believing Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) generals wouldn’t kill Egyptians proved wrong. According to one observer:
SCAF head “Sisi is like a train now, and it will hit anyone and anything in its way. (T)he problem is that those people out there cheering for him don’t understand that the train will get them next.”
One Morsi supporter spoke for others. MB must resist, he said. “It’s now beyond ‘the principle of obedience’ and the group. (N)ow it’s about all the blood that was shed.”
It’s about an unacceptable imprisonment and torture alternative.
A Final Comment
On August 17, London’s Observer headlined “Only democracy can end Egypt’s bloody crisis,” saying:
Egypt’s on the brink. “For those who doubted the power of the country’s post-revolutionary and unreformed ‘deep state,’ dominated…by the army, the judiciary and powerful economic interests backed by a servile state media, the events of the past week have been brutally instructive.”
“The murderous crackdown on the Brotherhood’s protest sit-ins following a previous massacre of supporters of the deposed Morsi has left hundreds dead.”
Suggesting Morsi’s ouster might restore democracy turns truth on its head. Reality is polar opposite.
Horrific massacres define junta rule. So does sweeping state terror.
“What is so dangerous right now is that neither side can conceivably triumph,” said Observer editors.
“The Brotherhood is too big, too well entrenched in so many parts of Egyptian life that the notion that it can simply be stamped out is nonsensical.”
“It might be bloodily repressed, but it cannot be snuffed out.”
“The Egyptian military might believe that through excessive force it can return to the status quo ante of the Mubarak period, but the revolutionary dynamics have made that impossible.”
World leaders bear much responsibility. They let SCAF human rights continue with impunity. They continue military and economic aid. They say one thing. They do another. Policy belies their rhetoric.
“(T)he message that needs to be delivered urgently is that, without a rapid demilitarisation of Egypt’s politics and withdrawal of the army from the political stage, Egypt’s crisis is only likely to deepen, while a return to a peaceful democratic transition will bring tangible rewards not just for the self-interested elites but for all Egyptians.”
“That requires an inclusive and pluralistic political process that includes all sides, including the Muslim Brotherhood, a release of political prisoners, including that organisation’s leadership, and the ending of a culture of impunity for acts of violence.”
It requires world leaders to rethink their “muddled, disengaged and dangerous policy on Egypt that has flip-flopped wildly.”
“It is all the more urgent because the alternative is a steep and violent descent into ever worse bloodshed.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.