The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

In Translation: Dismantling the Brothers’ revolutionary self-image

Taking a break from translations from the press, we offer you this week an impassioned Facebook missive by Karim Ennarah, a human rights activist reacting to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s controversial decree. Ennarah offers a critique of the Muslim Brotherhood’s use of the revolution to legitimate what many see as a power-grab, whereas its record shows it collaborating with the old regime and protecting it from revolutionary justice.

We are grateful to Mandy McClure for translation and editing — including deal with some tricky aameyya expressions.

Dismantling the Brothers’ revolutionary self-image

Karim Ennarah, Facebook, 24 November 2012

Morsi’s government is not a revolutionary government. In fact, it has been against the goals of the revolutions from day one. You may think they’re right, but please, this farce of “the revolution vs. the feloul!”[1] has to stop immediately, or I may very well die from the tawdriness of it all. The Muslim Brotherhood’s problem is that they’ve taken hold of the issue of the most esteemed, shitty judiciary[2] and turned it into the sole demand of the revolution. Let me then explain to you the bizarre inconsistencies in your explanations of the president’s decree. (Here I’m speaking to my friends among the MB, Islamists and their sympathizers, or those sympathetic to the president and his recent decisions. You all know that I’m not one for political expediency and have no chronic phobia of Islamists.)

  1. You can’t go on about the pillars of the former regime when you are allied with them and share power with their apparatus of repression. These so-called revolutionary decisions did not touch the police, the army, or the intelligence services even though they are the first and most powerful enemy of the revolution. Look at the Interior Minister’s statement from Thursday night and you’ll understand that these newly created political arrangements are based on an alliance with the existing repressive apparatus.
  2. [Former public prosecutor] Abdel Maguid Mahmoud is not the one who appointed Ahmed Gamal Al-Din as interior minister. A killer, Gamal al-Din is one of Adly’s generals who was the head of Assiut security when the revolution erupted, the same man who dragged the Supreme Guide’s wife in the streets of Assiut on January 26 [2011].
  3. It wasn’t us or the feloul who appointed General Mohamed Zaky as commander of the Republican Guard—the same Mohamed Zaky who was head of the paratroopers and is responsible for numerous crimes committed during the revolution, the worst of which was the Cabinet massacre, when the girl was dragged in the street and Sheikh Emad Effat was killed.
  4. We are also not the ones who appointed Khaled Gharaba as deputy interior minister, the same Khaled Gharaba who was Alexandria chief of police when Sayyed Bilal was tortured to death and demonstrators were suppressed and crushed on January 28.
  5. The People’s Assembly—the one with the MB, not NDP, majority—is the one that dragged its feet on every issue related to the restructuring of the Interior Ministry and transitional justice. I personally worked with the assembly for some time drafting a law to purge the Interior Ministry and amend the Police Law. The law was then put to the side for three months while they played kissy-face and made nice with Mohamed Ibrahim, then interior minister, and his deputy Gamal al-Din. In the end, the only change made to the Police Law was to increase wages and incentives for officers and police personnel.
  6. The current government and its “revolutionary judges” are the same people we met with repeatedly to discuss mechanisms for stopping ongoing torture and killing by the police. And every time we met them, they refused to even come near the police despite the increasing repression and violence because they don’t want to “demolish the state.”
  7. Because of the work you do[3], some of you know that the number of people who have died in police stations has doubled over the past year. We have numbers and evidence, but when we’ve presented it to the president’s advisors, they either feign surprise or tell us that these are isolated cases (the same response as Mubarak’s governments.)
  8. The Constituent Assembly protected from dissolution by Morsi’s revolutionary decree is the same one that drafted articles on the National Defense Council, the status of the armed forces, and the protection of the military budget from parliamentary oversight (thereby entrenching military rule and the sectarian state.)
  9. The army with which Morsi has reconciled and allied himself is the same one that occupied part of Qorsaya island a week ago and killed at least one of its inhabitants—shooting at them as they jumped in the water to escape—because it is an army whose generals have become accustomed to shameless theft. Incidentally, when a colleague of ours called Vice-President Mahmoud Mekki (the revolutionary independent) to intervene, he knew nothing about it. When we told him about a statement by the official spokesman for the local occupation forces—in which they announced their right to usurp the land on the grounds that it is a pivotal position — he told us, “Did they really say that?” Naturally, there was no intervention; the army has stolen the land and is prosecuting the people it was unable to kill before a military court.
  10. And speaking of the revolutionary Mekki brothers, Minister of Justice Ahmed Mekki, who has played a leading rule in every attempt to create a new legislatively-anchored authoritarianism, has, since assuming his position, pushed for renewed Emergency Law, from which will come new laws granting the police broad repressive powers in the coming weeks. Ahmed Mekki is extremely fond of the criminal police. When we were trying to arrange an academic conference on the reform of the criminal justice system in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice, he refused to use the word ‘reform’—let alone the word ‘purge’—and told us to “purge ourselves of our hatred of the police.” (This is an exact quote.)

There are plenty of examples and I could spend three hours reeling them off based both on my direct interactions with these sorts of people and the facts of our daily existence that are obvious to any sentient being. Let’s not fool ourselves with delusions of pro-revolutionary sentiment. The president’s decree for retrials is meaningless. The symbiotic relationship between the police and public prosecutors still exists. Prosecutors rely on police investigations, whether in crimes related to the killing of protestors or in cases involving the ongoing killing and torture by police, and naturally the police will never incriminate themselves. This situation will not change. The law to protect the gains of the revolution implicitly immunizes Tantawy and the SCAF because it only refers to the previous regime. Obviously, I’m telling defenders [of the president and his decree]: please don’t talk about the revolution as long as you are allied with, reconciled to, and willing to tolerate its very worst enemies. Don’t blame those sitting with the likes of [Judges’ Club president Ahmed] al-Zend and Amr Moussa for their moral degeneracy while you’re having a love-in with Tantawi and Ahmed Gamal al-Din, the one who dragged people in the streets on Adly’s orders. Don’t reduce the previous regime to the person of Abdel Maguid Mahmoud—don’t be like the SCAF, who, as my friend Osama Diab says, seemed to think the revolution was aimed solely at [Mubarak-era tourism minister] Zuheir Garana.

The revolution is always right and always in the streets and the street belongs to everyone. Politicians, though, are sometimes on the side of truth and sometimes not, depending on the expediency of the moment. Former regime figures who now want to jump on the revolutionary bandwagon are no different from the likes of [senior Muslim Brother] Mahmoud Ghozlan, who also joined the bandwagon while cursing the revolution in private and public. The common denominator between those in power and those in the fickle opposition is that both are zealous statists. They only turn to the revolution when there is no other recourse, but in all cases they support the repressive state and will again take refuge in it, the same way the Muslim Brotherhood has taken refuge in its embrace.

You are, of course, free to support this if you think the constitutional declaration and subsequent decrees are in your interest or if you’re convinced that they are in the interest of the nation. But please, I beg you, get your hands off the revolution. The president is disposed to neither the revolution nor social justice, and I cannot be convinced that he has immunized his decrees to protect the revolution when he has not once stood up to the repressive and security apparatus. Do we still need to teach people that absolute power corrupts absolutely? Does the Muslim Brotherhood never intend to learn the lesson of 1954? They, the ones who ostensibly suffered the most from it?

As Alaa Abdel Fattah says, we’re sorry for the self-evident.[4]

  1. Feloul, or remnants, is the derogatory term used to refer to remnants of the Mubarak regime.  ↩

  2. The pun here is on the word shakhikh, which literally means shitting/shitty, but obviously a play on the common phrase “al-qada’ al-shamikh,” or esteemed judiciary.  ↩

  3. The message was shared on Facebook among the human rights community.  ↩

  4. A play on the expression “We’re sorry Mr President” — used by the feloul during the Mubarak trial to express regret about the revolution. Alaa Abdel Fattah is a well-known activist and blogger.  ↩