Egyptian military generals stifle protests through army invasion tactics against their own people
Egypt is shell-shocked and the world is astounded. The 14th of August, 2013, will be known as the blackest day in the Arab world. On that fateful day the Egyptian military junta turned its guns, tanks, bulldozers and artillery fires on the peaceful sit-ins in Nahda Square and Rabia’ Al-Adawiyah of Cairo in broad daylight. According to the BBC, scores of people were killed when security forces stormed protest camps in the capital; pro-Morsi groups have claimed that hundreds have perished. The BBC’s Hugh Sykes in Cairo witnessed a protester trying to stop a tank in its tracks, “like Tiananmen Square”. Nobody will ever know the number of dead civilians. Tragically, Sky News cameraman, Mick Deane, was also among those shot and killed.
The Egyptian military might have broken all records of killing its own people, and this has happened before the world’s cameras. Egypt has not seen anything like this before, not even during the brutal Mubarak rule.
The military regime threatened to dismantle the sit-ins by Morsi supporters following protests against the ousting of the president. Supporters defied, probably thinking that their own army, which is supposed to fight the enemies, would not wage a war against Egyptian citizens and kill them in this manner. But the military behaved like an invading army.
The Egyptian generals must be relieved now that the nuisance of a pro-Morsi democratic sit-in is over, albeit temporarily. The American administration dithered until the massacre about whether recent events could rightly be called a coup, as recently stated by one senior politician, Senator John McCain. This gave the generals succour and allowed them to deal with the Morsi supporters in such a vicious way. The Gulf monarchies funnelled the cash-starved generals with needed funds as a prize for ousting Morsi; how do they feel now?
Yet, in January 2011 the whole of Egypt was enjoying – ecstatically – the freedom gained when their modern pharaoh Mubarak was peacefully deposed, and they were in high jubilation just over a year ago when their first transparent election saw a civilian president at the helm of Egypt. Everyone was talking about a new Egypt in the heartland of the Arab world. All this hope has now turned into ashes.
The military was constitutionally bound to be loyal to their elected president. But from day one Morsi faced mountainous challenges – high expectations from the Egyptians, demands from his own camp, and a total blockage of authority by the military and judiciary. The military – with massive political power behind the scenes and beneficiary of 40 per cent of the national budget – left no stone unturned to discredit Morsi. Within months, the already-dire economic situation was getting worse. Morsi made a desperate political decision, some say gamble and some naivety, and exerted his presidential authority to bypass the generals.
In to this muddy political situation came the National Salvation Front (NSF), the rag-tag coalition of defeated secular groups and Mubarak supporters often with violent demonstrations across the country. Morsi’s attempt for some sort of reconciliation was rejected outright by the NSF. Unfortunately, Mohamed El-Baradei’s role in this rejection was prominent (he has since resigned from the government, but the damage has been done). The military was biding its time; economic meltdown, especially the shortage of fuel, brought many people to the street against Morsi. Rather than trying to bring the two camps to a negotiated settlement, the military gave an ultimatum to Morsi to find a solution to the crisis and it sided with the NSF. Morsi was bound to fail. On 3 July 2013 he was ousted in a coup d’état. The spineless Al-Azhar Islamic University gave the military junta its blessing.
In response, many of Morsi’s supporters gathered in various parts of the country to peacefully protest against the military intervention and to call for Morsi’s reinstatement. But the military was not in a mood to listen to them. On 27 July, 74 pro-Morsi supporters were killed by the military according to Human Rights Watch. NGOs and governments around the world urged the military junta to show restraint, with wide concern about the escalation of violence. Yet the military decided to end the peaceful sit-ins in most horrific manner.
Where is Egypt going now? Are we witnessing the start of a long bloody civil war, as in Syria? And what does this mean when coupled with other regional events, such as Israel/Palestinians, Israel/Iran, Syrian civil war, Lebanon destabilisation, Bahrain and UAE’s human rights crackdowns, and so on? The Middle East which saw some ray of light has now plunged into darkness.
The world must speak out now against the Egyptian military junta. The US and other global powers can no longer sit on the fence. There should be a total condemnation of the massacre of civilians, with military aid cut off immediately. Human rights lawyers should come forward and use their principle of universal jurisdiction to make sure Egypt’s military does not get away with such human rights abuse. Only then the junta will feel isolated and reconsider their position in a civilised world.
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