Walaa Quisay visited the pro-Morsi sit-in at Raba’a al-Adaweya, and meets a group who believe they are battling for their own survival.
I arrived in Egypt on the day after the coup. It was a surreal feeling of ordinary and extraordinary. Some of those sitting beside us on the plane started to talk politics. One said: but you know Hassan al Banna was not like them. The other replied: they’re all the same; they’re all terrorists. The first then said: no no, the killed him; they killed him to frame the king and the British. We arrived in Egypt at 5 am; all the revolutionary posters in the airport that had always been stamped with irony (since they were put up by Shafiq – Mubarak’s last prime minister) were removed. I overheard a debate between a pro coup and anti coup employee. The debate was rather short and it ended with the man who was anti coup saying: this isn’t right but let’s not talk about this here in public. This was the first time since the revolution that I witnessed an Egyptian refusing to speak politics publicly. It was an extraordinary occurrence considering the past three years, but then it was very, very ordinary since it has been this way throughout the first 18 years of my life.
Then, on the streets, there was a mass display of flags that could only be compared to the state of a country before a big football match. On the cars there were posters of Gamal Abdel Nasser with anti Ikhwan slogans. They were hailing his Ikhwan pograms, not his Arab nationalism, not his socialism, only his violence.
This was not a strange Egypt; for me at least, it was quite familiar.
The problem of political parties in Egypt – both Muslim Brotherhood and secular – is their institutional weakness, their inability or unwillingness to address any real issues and the use of identity politics to rally support. This dangerous game got the Muslim Brotherhood power and made them lose it. It’s the game of the post colonial nation state that plays with mass identity, and thinking that by reshaping it they can establish popular loyalty. The Muslim Brotherhood have been warned time and time again to be inclusive, to govern like a political party not a religio-social movement, to not think that they will always have people’s support. They did not listen. When I went to Rabaa al Adwiya on the first day of the coup, it was a very depressing sight. Some people were so delusional, it was beyond belief. They, like all Egyptians for some reason God alone knows why, still had hope in the army. The more rational ones felt that it was a battle for their survival. This is not entirely fictitious.
Only Muslims in the West can understand the effect of labeling a margin of society as ‘terrorists’ and blaming all of them for the violence in the country has on a people. A beard in Egypt now equals a Brotherhood member. And a video of a bearded man committing a horrendous act of violence means that the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood are a ticking bomb that should be destroyed, before they will destroy the whole population. So the people, encouraged by an incredible amount of propaganda and rumours are out with a vendetta. I know of many people who have shaved their beards after the coup fearing that they will be labelled ‘Muslim Brotherhood’. Arwa al Taweel was beaten whilst carrying her toddler because she wears the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ style abaya, or cloak. Eman Mohammed, one of the most admirable revolutionary women I know, instead of going to her wedding went to her relative’s funeral who was killed in Alexandria. There is a warrant out for almost every Muslim Brotherhood figure I know. The army will not compromise, and the Brotherhood and those who do not want military rule say they are fighting for their survival. Those who are in solidarity with the Muslim Brotherhood from the revolutionaries do not trust them. They are no longer fighting for the state or the system; they too are fighting for survival. Unfortunately, the more the people fight for survival the less likely anyone will.
This will only get more complicated and bloody once the honeymoon phase between the people and the military dies out. The lies about Hamas’ involvement in the revolution or that the Ikhwan perpetrated the Camel Massacre thanks to the Egyptian propaganda machine are now facts. I don’t see a civil war scenario but the violence will be bad.
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