Should we keep the emotions out of the Egyptian political arena? Suzy Hanna takes a look at why we shouldn’t.
When I was half way through year 12, I announced to my parents that I was moving to China or Cuba to, and I quote, “Live out in full, my Communist ideologies.” My mother was horrified. My father patiently said, “Ok, but wait until the end of the year and we’ll discuss it after you finish your exams.” I had just discovered Communism in my textbooks and was taken by its beauty. To me, there was nothing more just or fair than a society living in total equality where no one lacks or is in need. I loved it so much I felt that I could no longer live unless I lived in such a perfect society.
As I learned more about Communism, I became disenchanted and disappointed with its realities. I no longer wanted to move to China or Cuba. My mother was relieved. My father, unsurprised. I asked him why he was never worried like my mother. And he answered, “I knew you’d realize on your own that Communism isn’t what it seems. It looks great on paper, but the reality of its application is completely different.”
With experience, I learned that there are many things that look great on paper, but its application gives a different reality. The current situation in Egypt brought back all of these memories. Speaking to people who are disconnected with the realities in Egypt has left me frustrated and annoyed. Most of them were not following the problem in detail. All of them were receiving their information from the biased Western media; the democratically elected Egyptian President was overthrown in a military coup.
I myself had experienced the bias of the media after the June 30 Revolution. In my naivety, I wrote to several media outlets, including CNN and BBC trying to correct their misunderstandings and offering them my alternative viewpoint. But with time I realized that it was not because they did not understand. But rather, they did not want to understand.
The United States government has decided that this was a military coup and the world must follow. The fact that a grassroots campaign started the scenario seemed to be irrelevant. The fact that the timeline started with ‘Tamarod’ or Rebellion, ordinary Egyptians who had enough of President Morsi’s dictatorial ways, asked all Egyptians eligible to vote to sign a petition asking for early elections, was irrelevant. The petition, which was signed by more people than had gone to vote in the Presidential elections, was ignored. All we asked for was early elections. I should know; I signed it.
The fact that millions marched out in the streets demanding to be heard was ignored. 33 million people took to the streets of Egypt. (Many argued that the numbers were fabricated in a major conspiracy against President Morsi. Indeed, I believe that Google Earth was part of the conspiracy against Morsi and enhanced numbers.) It was not until the will of the people was ignored continually ignored that the military gave the government a 48hr ultimatum to listen or to be held accountable. An interim President, a Supreme Court judge was instated. A month after negotiations were ignored and the entire nation knew what was going to happen, the military intervened. But hey, don’t let facts get in the way of a good story. Let’s call it a military coup.
The United States government got angry. They used all of their power to ask for Morsi’s release including threatening to cut aid to Egypt, which at the moment is Egypt’s lifeline. They called it a military coup, much to the offense of the Egyptians who prided themselves in a peaceful revolution through what they saw as exercising democratic means, given the circumstances.
Where was America’s voice when Morsi decreed himself dictatorial powers? Where was America’s voice when he diverted the Egyptian resources of electricity, gas, petrol and water to Gaza and left the people with nothing? Where was America’s voice when the Egyptian President ignored court orders to turn himself in because he was being charged with spying and espionage?
But this was not the end of the saga. A group of Muslim Brotherhood supporters encamped outside Rabaa Adaweya, a residential neighbourhood and have demanded that Morsi be brought back to power. For over three weeks, they have not moved- eating, drinking, defecating on and blocking the roads. They have not been able to carry out basic personal hygiene like showering and skin diseases has run rampant in the area, much to the fury of the residents who are imprisoned in their own homes. Attacks are regularly carried out on any one in the area who is not a Morsi sympathizer.
Meanwhile, terrorist attacks have been carried out throughout Egypt, targeting civilians, minority groups and soldiers. A Coptic priest was killed and another Copt beheaded. Hundreds of people were tortured, mutilated and killed. Youtube videos spring up daily showing children being viciously beaten up. Some were brutally murdered in various ways, including being thrown from rooftops. Christian homes and shops are targeted with a black X, so that attackers know where to attack. The Brotherhood and its sympathisers have stated that they will continue terrorist attacks until Morsi is reinstated. They have refused invitations to national dialogue and have burned the Egyptian flag as a sign of their protest.
The people raged. They started complaining and demanded that if the government could not offer them security, then they should leave their position. People were sick of the atrocities streamed through the media. I myself got tired of the mutilated bodies, both dead and alive, that I see on a daily basis. I got tired of hearing the weeping- of children being beaten up, of young men of mothers crying for their mutilated children. I am ashamed to admit it, but in my frustration, I stopped watching television to avoid the reality of what was happening.
I have stopped mid discussions with people who have said to negotiate with the MB or telling me that Rebellion was undemocratic. Unless you are subjected to the violence that I see, your perception of my reality is just that – a perception. One friend went as far as saying that I should take emotions out of it. What is politics if it is not about real-life, weeping, bleeding people? Politics is useless if it is mere words on paper, nothing more than fancy ink, not worth the paper it’s written on.
On Wednesday night Australian time, General Sisi, leader of the Egyptian military, gave an impassioned speech in which he asked the Egyptian people to demonstrate on Friday if they want the military to act against the terrorism. He would not do so without the people’s authorization. Within minutes, my Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with words such as, “I (name) the Egyptian citizen, authorize my Egyptian army to do what is necessary to protect Egypt from terrorist attacks.” Excited Egyptians vowed that they would rally in support of their army and nation.
I want to illustrate the sanctity of the army for Egyptians and how this is fed to Egyptians from their childhood. One of the most popular children’s songs that any Egyptian would know off by heart is “Zahab el layl” or the night had gone. A cartoon “video clip” by one of the leading musicians in classical Egyptian arts, it tells the story of cute cartoon baby chicks going about their daily lives as the night goes and the day starts.
One verse says:
“Mimi is a (male) doctor, Soad is a (female) doctor and we pray for you
Salah is a lawyer and Tootoo will be a judge to reconcile them
And tomorrow, Essam will be a soldier and defend them
He will defend the Nile with his life
And your lives also.”
The visuals are of a baby chick marching in a soldier’s uniform, then one holding a gun, as the camera pans up to the flag flying above him with the words “Tahya Massr” or Long Live Egypt. A large part of the terrorist attacks has been against the Egyptian army. I cannot begin to describe the effect this has had on the Egyptian people. I do not think anything could have infuriated them more. The army of any country is their pride and joy- but it would not be an exaggeration to say that the Egyptian army to the nation is a source of pride equivalent to the pyramids, possibly more so. These are the country’s sons, protecting the land with their life. To have them attacked by terrorists, even if they profess to be Egyptian, is a personal attack on the Egyptian people.
So when on Thursday morning, the United States retaliated to General Sisi’s speech by halting a shipment of F 16 fighter jets to Egypt, the Egyptian people honestly couldn’t care less. Keep your jets and planes. Post June 30, people have even said keep your aid if it means you will force us to live with terrorism.
When the United States was attacked in September 11, it started a war on terror. Yet for some unknown reason, the US expects Egypt to accept the terrorist attacks willingly. Our people have had enough. Our military has our support, on Friday and every day. We authorize them to save us. I authorize Essam the baby chick that I grew up believing in, to lay down his life to protect us. Not as a perception on paper, but as a reality. And unless you are living this reality or seeing images of this reality, go back to your textbooks, because that is where your perception of reality belongs.
Suzy Hanna is member of The Australian Coptic Movement Association working within the media and public relations area. With a Bachelor in Law/Arts, Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, Bachelor in Arts (Honours) and Bachelor in Secondary Teaching, Suzy’s education and personal interest in sociological affairs of Copts and Egypt has seen her on the front lines of elevating the Coptic Cause. Suzy has fronted an array of media outlets including SBS Broadcasting, Sky and local and independent media. You can contact Suzy via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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