Bob Feldman :
People’s History of Egypt, Epilogue/Update, Section 1, February-October 2013

Millions of Egyptians take to the streets and military deposes Morsi; El-Sisi initiates brutal counterrevolution.

morsi supporters

Supporters of Egypt’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi let their feelings be known, July 2013. Photo by AP.

By Bob Feldman | The Rag Blog | June 15, 2014

[With all the dramatic activity in Egypt, Bob Feldman’s Rag Blog “people’s history” series, “The Movement to Democratize Egypt,” could not be more timely. Also see Feldman’s “Hidden History of Texas” series on The Rag Blog.]

By June 2013, large numbers of people in Egypt felt that — as the secular left anti-imperialist Revolutionary Socialists group in Egypt noted in its July, 6, 2013 statement, then Egyptian president “Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood had betrayed the principles of the January 25, 2011 revolution and overthrown its goals.”

So on June 30, 2013, “millions of Egyptians poured into the streets” of Cairo and demanded that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood be removed from power. In its July 6, 2013, statement, the Revolutionary Socialists group demanded “the drafting of a law of transitional justice which holds to account the Brotherhood for the blood it has spilled, as well as the [ruling Egyptian] Military Council and the symbols of the Mubarak regime, and achieves retribution for the martyrs and injured of the [Egyptian] revolution,” as well as demanding that they take “immediate steps to achieve social justice for the benefit of millions of poor and low-income.”

The movement to democratize Egypt

In a July 6, 2013 interview with the newspaper of a secular left Iranian political group, Egyptian Communist Party General Secretary Salah Adli indicated why his group also felt that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood needed to be removed from power:

After…Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, the masses discovered their authoritarian nature, fascist character, their bias to the interests of more reactionary and parasitic sections of capitalism, and their inability to run a state of the size of Egypt… Their sectarian and obscurantist project, which is hostile to democracy, science, culture and tolerance, became very evident. More importantly, the masses discovered the falsehood of their use of religious slogans to disguise their plans…

Therefore, the number of social protests (strikes, sit-ins, demonstrations and protest pickets) reached 7400 — by Mohamed Morsi’s own admission — during last year. The unemployment rate reached 32%… The proportion of people living below the poverty line increased to more than 50% of the population.

In short, most classes and strata of society — and its liberal, nationalist and leftist political forces, as well as youth movements, mostly leftist and nationalist oriented…felt…a grave danger as a result of the Muslim Brotherhood remaining in power because of their fervent quest to monopolize power and exclude anyone who is not with them, other than their allies among terrorist groups that use religion as a cover…

The “Tamarud” (Rebellion) Movement succeeded in collecting more than 22 million signatures for the withdrawal of confidence in Morsi and in support of calling for early presidential elections. All parties, trade unions and organizations participated in collecting signatures, and the campaign spread in the streets of cities, in factories, schools and universities, and in villages in all the governorates of Egypt.

The great importance of this campaign is that it was able to involve Egyptian citizens actively in the revolutionary movement to overthrow the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood… The call for the collection of signatures was accompanied by calling for demonstrations in all the main squares of Egypt on June 30th as a principal test of the credibility of this campaign…The response of the masses of the Egyptian people was great, and the biggest demonstrations in the history of Egypt, and even in the history of the world, came out…

More than 27 million demonstrators came out at the same time in all the governorates of Egypt, representing various classes and strata of the Egyptian society, in the face of protests that did not exceed 200 thousand demonstrators from the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies in one small square in Cairo. Thus, the Egyptian people were on one side and the Muslim Brotherhood were with their allies on the other, isolated, side…

So when Egyptian military leaders staged a military coup in early July 2013, that removed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power, many people in Egypt initially expressed support for the Egyptian military leaders’ action. Yet as The Arab Awakening Unveiled author Esam al-Amin noted in a July 4, 2013 CounterPunch article:

On the afternoon of June 30 [2013], defense minister and military chief General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who was appointed by Morsi…issued an ultimatum to the president and the opposition to reach a compromise within 48 hours or else the military would intervene… By July 2, it was evident that the army has decided to overthrow Morsi… Sisi…suspended the constitution and dismissed the government…

Immediately after Sisi’s announcement, the new regime began its crackdown on the media that supported the deposed president. Four TV satellite channels that belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood or the Islamists, as well as two Al-Jazeera channels, were suspended and taken off the air. The pro-Morsi protests across Egypt were also surrounded by the military. TV cameras were removed and the electricity was cut in anticipation of forcefully evacuating the protesters, as food and water were denied.

Meanwhile, a crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood leaders and their supporters was in full force, strongly suggesting premeditation. Within two hours of Sisi’s announcement, Morsi and some of his senior assistants were detained and transferred to the defense ministry. Former speaker and Freedom and Justice Party chair, Dr. Saad Katatni, Muslim Brotherhood leader and general guide Dr Muhammad Badie, as well as his deputies Khayrat El-Shater and Rashad Bayyoumi were also arrested. Former presidential candidate and Islamist Hazem Salah Abu Ismail and preacher Safwat Hegazi were arrested and charged with “insulting the military.”

Al-Ahram newspaper also reported that over 300 arrest warrants were issued against the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters, as dozens were rounded up while all Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party properties, assets and buildings were being seized and their bank accounts frozen…

After the security forces of Sisi’s military regime also began shooting down large numbers of pro-Morsi and pro-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators in late July and early August 2013, many Egyptian human rights activists and secular left Egyptian activists began to express their opposition to the undemocratic policies of Sisi’s military regime. In an August 14, 2013 statement, titled “Down with military rule! Down with El-Sisi, the leader of the counter-revolution!,” the Revolutionary Socialists group observed:

The bloody dissolution of the sit-ins in Al-Nahda Square and Raba’a al-Adawiyya is nothing but a massacre — prepared in advance. It aims to liquidate the Muslim Brotherhood. But, it is also part of a plan to liquidate the Egyptian Revolution and restore the military-police state of the Mubarak regime… We have to put the events of today in their context, which is the use of the military to smash up workers’ strikes. We also see the appointment of new provincial governors — largely drawn from the ranks of the remnants of the old regime, the police and military generals. Then there are the policies of General Abdel Fatah El-Sisi’s government. It has adopted a road-map clearly hostile to the goals and demands of the Egyptian revolution, which are freedom, dignity and social justice.

This is the context for the brutal massacre which the army and police are committing. It is a bloody dress rehearsal for the liquidation of the Egyptian Revolution. It aims to break the revolutionary will of all Egyptians who are claiming their rights, whether workers, poor, or revolutionary youth, by creating a state of terror…We stand firmly against El-Sisi’s massacres, and against his ugly attempt to abort the Egyptian Revolution. For today’s massacre is the first step in the road towards counter-revolution…

And in an Oct. 24, 2013 interview that was posted on openDemocracy in November 2013, a Revolutionary Socialists activist, Sameh Naguib, observed:

Sisi wants to keep power but he wants it to be constitutional. He wants it to be set in stone: above all he doesn’t want to be challenged. He’s just carried out the worst massacres in modern Egyptian history and he wants to make sure that he doesn’t pay for that…

For some time the police and the army kept up the claim that the Muslim Brotherhood set fire to their own people and that they were heavily armed. That, with time, turns out not to be true… Even the health ministry says that over a thousand died that day on August 14 [2013]. The Muslim Brotherhood are claiming over six thousand. It’s probably somewhere in between… According to the main human rights organizations, there are still four hundred people missing from that day…There are lots of burnt, unidentifiable bodies. And the independent human rights organizations that have nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood also claim much higher numbers of deaths than those maintained by the health ministry… In terms of the media, the whole episode was played down, and the release of information has been very controlled…

Many people supported Sisi not because they were fascists or ultra secularists, but simply because they thought — “OK, the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t deliver on our demands. Maybe, maybe this military will.” There are, of course, sections of the middle class who support Sisi purely because they hate the revolution… They hate the idea that everybody is suddenly demanding a life, and that the poor, whenever they have a demand, take it upon themselves to go out onto the streets and demonstrate. They hate this. They might have wanted some change at the top, but without all this — revolution.

So you have that kind of solid support for El Sisi, but that’s mainly a middle and upper class support. Their criticism of El Sisi now, crazy as it might sound, is that he is not being hard enough. I mean over fifteen thousand in jail, tens of thousands — nobody knows the numbers — of people injured, at least two to three thousand killed and that’s not a hard enough clampdown for them. They want everything cleaned up and back to normal at whatever cost…

The massacres of the Muslim Brotherhood were not about destroying the Muslim Brotherhood. It is a message to the Egyptian revolutionaries, to the Egyptian people that, “This is over. This is the price you’re going to pay if you continue.” And you can see, immediately afterwards, the level of labor protests went down very rapidly. Workers’ strikes went from over 900 a month to less than 100. And that is what Sisi is after; this is the project…

Read the entire “People’s History of Egypt” series here. Epilogue to come next week.

[Bob Feldman is an East Coast-based writer-activist and a former member of the Columbia SDS Steering Committee of the late 1960s. Read more articles by Bob Feldman on The Rag Blog.]

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One Response to Bob Feldman :
People’s History of Egypt, Epilogue/Update, Section 1, February-October 2013

  1. Beverly Baker Moore says:

    I thank Mr. Feldman for this in-depth history. He has his hands full keeping up with the changes over there. Waiting on his take on the current journalist arrests and sentencing. They’ve sure got the BBC in a snit.

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