Why the SCAF & Their Speech are Completely Ridiculous

On February 1st 2011, Mubarak gave his second speech, that annoyed the hell out of most Egyptians but somehow managed to touch the heart of some (He spoke of dying in Egypt, his service to Egypt and how much he loves this country, and let’s face it, we are highly emotional people who often show symptoms of the Stockholm Syndrome).

I was one of those people highly annoyed by the speech. In fact I was so annoyed, that as soon as I woke up to find the internet back on Febuary 2nd, I sat and wrote this blog post answering every point in his speech with facts about the ridiculous breaches of our rights that his regime and himself committed.  After that thugs that were hired by the regime attacked the protestors in Tahrir for a continuous 14 hours, leaving Egyptians at home and the entire world in immense shock at the brutality of Mubarak and his minions.

Here we are almost half a year later, Mubarak is gone, and his minions in uniform have taken over ruling the country. On Tuesday July 12th, Lieutenant Mohsen El Fangary, a member of the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces and the same man who saluted the martyrs of our revolution the night Mubarak stepped down, gave a statement harshly accusing protestors of causing chaos in the country. It  sounded all-too-familiar to me. In fact, so little has changed in the past months, that here I am, angrily getting ready to write yet another answer to a statement by the ruler of Egypt with facts to show them that we are not idiots and we will not be silenced anymore.

The Statement:

 

Whether you speak Arabic or not, you hear the sharpness, challenging and accusatory tone of his speech. Later in the day the SCAF had a press conference which they attempted to tone it down saying they will do their best to end the sit-ins through non-violent manners by engaging in a conversation with the protestors.

My replies to this statement

He claims that the SCAF stood by the revolution and supported the peoples’ demands from the start

To this I say: Bullshit. They stood by the regime, never the people. If they stood by the people they wouldn’t have given ammunition to the police in Tahrir Square on January 28th, they wouldn’t have stood by and let the thugs attack Tahrir on Feb 2nd and they would have taken a stance any time before the 18 days.  Sure, as soon as Mubarak stepped down they dissolved the forged Parliament and Shura Council and suspended the constitution, which were part of the original demands.

But then they only took some ex-regime members (5 to be exact) into custody and treated them like scape-goats while letting the Mubarak family along with his office manager, the head of parliament and the many ministers and MPs who were responsible for the killing of protesters, the torture and theft to be free to organise their assets and cover their asses. In fact they only started issuing the arrest warrants on these people in April, after several million man marches.

He says that SCAF will not give up their role in ruling the country in this phase of Egypt’s history. He claims that this is what the people wanted and approved according to the March referendum.

Well, actually, our dear SCAF, no one asked you to be the rulers of the country during the transitional phase. In fact, when Omar Suliman, the short-lived Egyptian vice president, announced in 30 seconds that Mubarak would be stepping down he also announced that Mubarak would be leaving the country in your charge. Therefore, you were appointed by your ex-leader Mubarak, not the Egyptian people. The revolution was asking for a civil transitional government, not a military one. Your role as Egypt’s rulers is not, and has never been constitutional. You may run one of the biggest armies in the Middle East, but people are not soldiers, and you were just never raised to engage in conversation or be open to input.

In regards to the referendum, that was only used to trick us into thinking we are in a democracy now. I only have one thing to say: The referendum was not democratic. I’m not questioning the outcome. But in a true democracy, when citizens vote for something they should know what they are voting for. You ran a completely non-transparent, unfair process, in which you gave almost no information on what would happen if we voted No. Thus, leaving political powers the night before still battling on what each think what each vote would lead to. You didn’t give enough time for people to engage in conversation and when the first Sectarian clash broke out before, people focused on that and not the coming referendum.  This left no time to question or understand the process. And actually assuming that the 72% who voted Yes were voting “Yes to the Army” is merely an assumption because the reasons behind the Yes vote were numerous: Some voted yes because of religion thanks to a (false) campaign to keep article 2 of the old constitution. Others voted Yes to make sure your stay in power would be as short lived as possible. While some were just voting Yes because we got used to that (Yes Mubarak!).

Fun Fact: Before the results came out SCAF didn’t even issue a statement explaining that the results of the referendum would lead to these articles being added to a constitutional declaration of 40 articles that are copied from Mubarak’s dismissed, toppled and dismantled constitution.

SCAF affirms the following: (I will answer these one by one)

1. Freedom of expression is in everyone’s rights withing legal boundaries

Legal boundaries for freedom? According to whose standards? Egyptian people have been suppressed for generations. We all have a voice now and we all wish to speak.  Only when we all let out what is in us that we will be able to form bodies to help us move forward with our development. Also, reality check, our revolution is far from over in both the political sense and the economic sense. Politically you have failed to reach many of the revolution’s demands such as: a) trying ex-regime officials (and Mubarak) for their crimes in a fast, fair and public manner. b) Starting a real restructing process of the security apparatus that the regime used to torture and silence people so they could stay in power c) Allowing people the freedom to protest without being beaten up, arrested, questioned and subjected to military trials and virginity testing.

As for the media, nothing has changed. Egyptian state TV and newspapers have become your voice to the people instead of Mubarak’s. There is still lies, false facts and propaganda from your side forced upon us. Not to mention calling in for questioning journalists and TV personalities for challenging your leadership.

Freedom of speech, yeah right.

2. SCAF is committed to its action plan of running the country during the transitional phase of having parliament, Shura council then a constitution & a president thus handing the country to an elected civil authority

Not nearly enough. That is a political action plan. But where is the social aspect of it? One of the main demands of the revolution was social justice. You, nor Essam Sharaf’s cabinet, have not taken any steps in ensuring that. Which is why the so called “side protests” have been going on by workers in factories, teachers, doctors, students…etc to try to achieve social justice and overthrow the workplace Mubaraks. People also demand a proper minimum wage, or at least an action plan that is timely to ensure that. Another failure from your side. What’s more, you have taken no steps (without pressure) to take the demands of the revolution that impact people’s lives and jobs.

3. Supporting the Prime Minister Essam Sharaf in his rights & responsibilities according to the constitutional declaration & the law

Supporting Esaam Sharaf or chaining & silencing him? I believe Carlos Latuff’s cartoon below speaks for itself.

SCAF's relationship with Egyptian PM Essam Sharaf

4. Working within legal frame works when dealing with criminals & with laws for the transitional phase

The word “Thug” has been used sporadically lately. Of course there is an increase in crime on Egypt’s streets. After all, you just more slyly have continued keeping police off the streets. You and the police force try to blame the Egyptian people & the revolution for the security problem (very clever, I’ll give you that). But actually, if the police force are not functioning, it is your responsibility as the rulers to bring security to the streets. If you take measures in restructuring the police force, changing its leadership, and training the officers there wouldn’t be issues between people and the police. You are using the absence in security to scare us into halting our revolution. But actually Mubarak used the same tactic and failed. I suggest you try and learn from his mistakes.

Also, when you start using this “Thug Law” (which is the same as Emergency Law which removing was an original demand) you are abusing it to take protesters into military custody. My friend Tarek Shalaby was one of those you decided to take in, and actually he has a one year suspended sentence for protesting and destroying public property (a false claim on your side with zero evidence to support it). Military trials of civilians are completely unacceptable. They are even more so when you use them against protesters. The same way you kept the curfew till June 15th to have an excuse when you attack protests (like you did on April 9th in Tahrir, see video below)

5. Continuing with the conversational & open policy with all political powers & the revolution’s youth to achieve the demands

I seem to recall political powers saying widely that you simply do not engage in open policy conversation with them. Except for the Muslim Brotherhood of course, but you guys have had an on-off relationship for decades. Most political powers are pissed off because you still have not given any real information about when and how Parliamentary elections will take place.

As for the revolution youth, I have a question, who the hell are these revolution youth you engage with? You started with talking to the Youth Coalition, then they realised this was leading no where so they stopped engaging with you and went back to the square. I remember the night after the CNN story about the virginity checks came out and you invited these “revolution youth” in your 60 & 61 statements on Facebook to come 48 hours later to have a discussion with you the current situation. Most of the established youth coalitions signed a statement refusing to meet with you because of the short notice, the box of revolution youth you put them in, the fact that it is a two hour meeting with 1,000 people so they knew it would be a lecture from your side. You still had the meeting with random youth you found somewhere while we had a protest outside against the virginity testing and military trials.

6. Drafting a document establishing the principles of the committee that will be in charge to draft the new Egyptian constitution (this will be added to the constitutional declaration after all political parties agree to it).

If we are drafting this document and it will be binding for the future parliament. Then why aren’t we just putting together the committee and drafting the constitution now? The idea behind having the constitution after the parliament is formed is so they can pick the committee. But if we are agreeing on the basis on which the committee will be chosen, then why not start the process now and have a solid constitution before we start electing any new bodies to represent us?

SCAF is aware of the dangers & the plan to harm the country:

1. Protests & strikes that are not peaceful that affect the citizens negatively & are stopping the wheel of production

2. Spreading rumors which lead to splits & destabalization

3. Prioritising private interests over public ones

The danger to the country and the revolution is no one but yourself. You have attacked peaceful protests. Do not pretend otherwise. Starting Feb 25th, March 9th, April 9th, May 15th and most recently your beloved left arm the police attacked protesters continuously on June 28th. Every single month this year. Not to mention that the protests that stop production are well deserved because workers are getting nothing. The government’s concession to make minimum wage at 700 LE (less than 100 Euros) is just ridiculous in comparison to the prices and inflation rates.

SCAF calls on honourable citizens to stand up to all things that stop normal life from returning to the country & stand up to the rumors. SCAF supported by the people will not allow anyone to jump onto power and will take measures to stand up to the threats that affect national security.

So SCAF is trying to turn the public against the people still protesting. What they don’t get, is that this revolution happened because “normal life” was horrible. People are in revolt now. Yes there are those who are still skeptical of the revolution, and those who believe we should aim for stability and economic reform at this stage. But there is certain consensus on the current demands. As for the rumors, Egyptian television Ch1 on Tuesday after your statement was accepting callers who were saying that the people in Tahrir were not the true revolutionaries, not the youth of the revolution and that they were planet there by Israel. These statements were said by Vice President of the Ghad Party El-Dessouki. As usual the presenter accepted this and did not question it. However, when someone was revealing the truth about Tahrir and about the virginity testing, they not only questioned their input but also the facts they shared.

A little History on the SCAF & Egyptian Army

In 1952, the army led by the Free Officers’ movement had a C’oup D’etat that overthrew the king of Egypt, which was supported by the Egyptian people. This movement was promising free and fair elections and a civil democratic state for Egypt in an attempt to rid Egypt of its corrupt king and elites.

However, that is not how the story went. According to Middle East Analyst Omar Ashour on BBC, in December 1952 Gamal AbdelNasser, one of the leaders of the movement and who later became president of Egypt, said in a meeting of army officers and Muslim Brotherhood leaders”If I held elections today, al-Nahas would win, not us. Then our achievement would be nothing,” He was referring to Mostafa El-Nahas, of the secular Wafd Party, the most popular in Egypt at the time. Nasser and the free-officers banned political parties, restricted freedom of expression and made sure even their allies, the Muslim Brotherhood, were banned from taking leadership of the country. They put forward Nasser as president in 1954, and later when he was followed by Sadat then Mubarak, it was all army men.

The NDP and the army are not so far from each other. In fact they are more allies than they like to show. If we say the NDP is the counter revolution then the army is the one facilitating its existence. That is why we have to continue what we started, and the SCAF will just have to make certain concessions to meet our demands.

So here I am, writing a very similar blog post to the one I wrote on Feburary 2nd while there has been a revolution and supposedly a “successful” one.

SCAF say they stand by the revolution, well this is their chance to prove it.

Tarek Shalaby: Citizen Journalist, Activist and in Military Custody for That

Most people know the micro-celebrity Tarek Shalaby as the blogger, and activist who was among the first to camp out in Tarir as early as Jan 30th vowing to leave when Mubarak was ousted. His tent, named Bansyon El Horeyya, became a meeting point for some revolutionaries, and soon enough emerged versions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the tent. For me, I mostly know him as my very good friend who always calls me by my full-name, has a special laugh whenever he talks to me on the phone and feels the need to share his love for me with his 12,000 followers on twitter.

When Libya was in its first days of the revolution before the foreign intervention, Tarek and a group of friends raised 40,000 Egyptian pounds and took a convoy to Benghazi and Tubruk to not only deliver aid but show solidarity with the Libyans.

Tarek, always an advocate of the Palestinian cause, volunteered in refugee camps in Shatila, Lebanon helping guide Palestinian refugees on using the internet as a means to get their message through. He is a strong believer in citizen journalism and used his own technical and experiential expertise to help the Palestinians spread awareness about their cause since most western media focuses more on the pro-Israeli side of the story.

In April of this year when people started mobilizing for the third Palestinian intifada, we had the first protest in front of the Israeli embassy this year. Tarek was there for most of the day (even though it was my birthday and he was kind of obsessed with going partying…) reporting what was happening on twitter and live streaming on Bambuzer.

Power to the people

We had been making plans for a few weeks with some friends to make it to Rafah to peacefully protest on the border with Gaza in solidarity with the intifada. The original plan was to join the convoy of 30 buses that were taking activists to the border. However, the SCAF directly ordered touristic operators not to rent out buses going to Rafah. So that plan didn’t go through. As a group of 14 people, we managed to get three cars and took a trip to attempt reaching the border. We knew chances were slim to get there, but we decided to try anyway. Tarek’s car managed to reach Arish (very close to Rafah) and was denied entry at the last checkpoint before Arish. Our cars only managed to get to Port Foad just at the start of North Sinai (after taking a ferry up north from Port Said).

Map showing route from Cairo to Rafah (bordering Gaza)

After a long day and night of trying to coordinate ourselves and spending a lot of time in check-points, we had a nice day in Port Said on May 15th, and headed back to Cairo. On our way back, we were reading on twitter that the protest in front of the embassy was being attacked by tear gas (the same expired tear gas they used on us at the start of the protests) as well as rubber bullets. While most of us decided to go home, Tarek and the crew in his car decided to go check out what was happening.

Tarek was tweeting and broadcasting videos on Bambuzer from the night. He’s always been an active blogger and social media enthusiast. He believes everyone has a role and a passion, and he likes to place himself as a citizen journalist and reporter from events and protest as he upholds a high degree of journalistic integrity (even if he’s not technically a journalist as we define them traditionally…) and is committed to reporting facts.  Below are a series of tweets from the night of is arrest. And here is a link to the Bambuser video he broadcasted during his arrest.

Tarek has been released on Thursday the 19th of May, after standing before a military court and getting a 1 year suspended sentance. His accusations were: – Public Gathering and – Destruction of Public Property (not even true). The rest of the detainees from the Israeli embassy were also released by most of them got 6 months to a year with similar accsuations.

Every since the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (commonly known as SCAF) took over Egypt after Mubarak’s ousting, we have seen a number of human rights violations such as:

– Criminalizing protesting with economic disruptions

Military trials to civilians

Torture of activists and violently  dispersing protests

Testing virginity of female protesters

Media censorship on anyone criticizing SCAF.

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