Totally different

With the Muslim Brotherhood losing again and again, Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has gained much public ground – Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Ahmed Eleiba, Oct 9, 2013.

Two completely different scenes marked this year’s commemoration of the October War victory. One was a huge display of patriotic loyalty in the iconic Tahrir Square, around Al-Ittihadiya palace and other squares around the country. The other was a display of allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in which members of this group aimed to send a number of messages abroad.  

Political and military experts noted that with its failed attempt to assassinate the commemoration of the October victory the MB had sealed the death certificate of its affiliation to the nation and the national polity. Some added that the group had put itself in the trench of the enemy who sees this national occasion as a bad reminder and tries to ruin it for the Egyptian people.

In spite of the explicit warnings by security and political authorities and the people, the Muslim Brotherhood followed through on its threats to create disturbances and wreak havoc in order to disrupt the celebrations and spoil the day for the Egyptians celebrating the occasion in the public squares.

The group paid a heavy price in order to convey their message to foreign powers and public opinion abroad. In the confrontations they were determined to trigger, 55 Muslim Brotherhood youth died, 300 were injured and around 500 were arrested. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon issued a statement in which he “condemned the violence in Egypt”. But apart from that, it appears that their message failed to obtain its aims. Prime among these, according to Abu Bakr Khalaf, a scholar on the affairs of Islamist movements who took part in the demonstrations, was to improve the negotiating conditions for the Muslim Brotherhood to make it possible to return to the polls as the arbitrator. Even if public opinion rejects the Muslim Brotherhood that should be established through the ballot box, he said. In return, the group will agree to work with the current roadmap declared by the revolutionary forces with the support of the army on 3 July. Secondly, the Muslim Brotherhood seeks the release of all its leaders who have been detained and all the cases and investigations against them dropped. In exchange, they will end the anti-army demonstrations. As for Mohamed Morsi, the negotiators would not focus on his constitutional or legal status but rather on securing his release and ending prosecution procedures against him.

The Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators set as their strategic goal for 6 October breaking into Tahrir Square. In their plans for that day, the “alternative” leaders set four main marching zones. One began in the Khatem Al-Mursaleen area of Omraniya, where demonstrators set off towards Giza Square and were joined on the way by processions from Pyramids Road and Faisal Street. From Giza Square they would head towards Qasr Al-Nil Bridge and then Tahrir. The second zone comprised the other areas of the Giza governorate, such as Imbaba, Mohandessin and Dokki. Marches would converge in Sphinx Square, head across 15 May Bridge and proceed to Tahrir. Zone three combined the suburbs of Nasr City, Heliopolis and New Cairo in which the rallying points were set at Al-Salam Mosque in Nasr City’s 10th district, Imam Makram Ebeid Mosque at Nasr City, and Roxy Square in Heliopolis. These demonstrations would converge on Ramses Street which also leads to Tahrir Square. The fourth zone was designated for the districts on the eastern bank of the Nile to the south of Tahrir, beginning at Maadi and Old Cairo. Demonstrators would converge on Qasr Al-Aini street which, again, leads directly into Tahrir.

According to Khalaf, the four main marches were coordinated so that they would reach the capital’s central square at the same time. He added that each procession had a command and a reconnaissance team. The former would lead, signalling those behind them using agreed upon movements of the banners while the latter would scout ahead on the lookout for possible collisions with police or residents.

“The purpose of entering Tahrir Square that day was to stress that there are people who have a right to appear in the picture, apart from the masses that came to the square to support Minister of Defence General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi,” Khalaf said. When asked whether the organisers and marchers were aware that security forces had deployed intensively at strategic places in order to secure the square and that the MB marchers would be headed for confrontations, Khalaf shrugged. The message they had to convey abroad was worth the risk … //

… In the face of the Muslim Brotherhood threat, the populace that filled Tahrir and other squares were both jubilant and defiant on 6 October. Egyptian flags were ubiquitous as were pictures of General Al-Sisi. Moreover, campaigns calling for Al-Sisi’s nomination for the presidential elections were in full swing. The most active of these campaigns  are “Complete your favour” and “A national demand”. The organisers of these drives claimed to have obtained six million and seven million signatures, respectively, on their petitions to persuade Al-Sisi to run for president on that day alone.

One of the signatories was the governor of Kafr Al-Sheikh Ezzat Agwa who said that he had signed in his capacity as an ordinary citizen. Minister of Education Mahmoud Abul-Nasr was also on hand that day, holding up a picture of Al-Sisi, indicating that the demand for Al-Sisi to run for president is not just a popular, grassroots one. It was clear that day that if Al-Sisi does run for president he would definitely be the lead runner.

Public attention also turned to the official celebrations that were held that day. These, for the first time, were attended by Jihan Al-Sadat who was seated together with the interim President Adli Mansour, other government officials and a number of visiting Arab dignitaries. This was another message that sounded clearly that day and that was underscored by General Al-Sisi in his speech: 6 October victory day was a day for all Arabs.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi was also on hand that day and was warmly received by many present. Not present was General Sami Anan who had served as the second-in-command of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which assumed the reins of government following the 25 January Revolution. To some present at the ceremonies his absence was not unexpected. A source who was there told the Weekly that Anan had not been invited because he had breached the codes of military conduct and the law the previous week by publishing his memoirs without first obtaining the approval of the Military Morale Affairs and Military Intelligence departments. There have been rumours and conjectures, according to the same source, that Anan had been in touch with Muslim Brotherhood members in order to secure their support for his nomination as a candidate for the presidency.

The ceremonies that day, in which a broad range of cultural, political, media and judicial figures took part, revived the old taste of victory day, effacing the bitter one that was left by last year’s ceremony that was dominated by radical Islamist figures, not least of whom were Abboud and Tarek Al-Zomor of the Egyptian Jihad which was responsible for the assassination of Anwar Al-Sadat.

General Hossam Kheirallah told the Weekly that the army had succeeded in recapturing the spirit of victory day this year, although he had wished that the government had taken better precautions against the MB designs.
In the opinion of General Muslim, it was General Al-Sisi who proved the most successful on that day through his impromptu remarks that struck a chord among the people. “Egypt will never forget who stood by its side and who stood against it,” he said. There was no doubt as to whom this message was intended to warn.
(full text).

Links:

Existential choices, on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Amany Maged, Oct 09, 2013: the fate of Islamist forces after political parties based on religion are banned …;

Incubators of unrest, on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Reem Leila, Oct 09, 2013: Demonstrations are rocking Egypt’s universities …;

(see also: Welcome to our new blog: politics for the 99%).

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