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Egypt: SCAF – The Last Pillar of the House!?

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

Over the past few days in Egypt we have witnessed: the detention of the prominent Egyptian blogger, Alaa Abd El Fattah; one more civilian victim of the Military Trials is believed to have been tortured to death in his jail; the murderers of Khaled Said (the case that fueled the Egyptian revolution) were recently punished with only seven years in jail; and until now, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces has refused to bear responsibility for the massacre that took place in the Maspero area, earlier this month.

All these incidents have made Egyptian bloggers wonder whether are we back to square one? Or as Alaa wrote in the message he sent from his detention, which was translated by Sultan AlQassemi:

I did not expect that the very same experience would be repeated after five years, after a revolution in which we have ousted the tyrant, I go back to jail?

Woman with black clothes holding a candle mourning the Maspero violence. Image by Amr Jamil, copyright Demotix (13/10/11).

Woman with black clothes holding a candle mourning the Maspero violence. Image by Amr Jamil, copyright Demotix (13/10/11).

It is clear to many, including Amira Nowaira, that the Supreme Council for Armed Forces (SCAF) is not doing well in managing the transitional period in Egypt:

More than 3 weeks after the deadly clashes that left 27 dead (so far) and hundreds injured on Sunday 9 October in front of the Egyptian State TV building, Maspero, there are still more questions than answers. The only thing that is clear is that the brutal attack against peaceful, mostly Coptic, protesters, marks a dangerous turning point in the ruling military council’s (dis)management of Egypt’s transition and sends a number of worrying messages.

Not only are they said to be mismanaging the transitional period, but they are being accused of standing behind the massacre, as many stated here. And according to Bikya Masr writer, Hayden Pirkle, the Coptic businessman Naguib Sawiris too holds the Egyptian military responsible for Maspero massacre:

Prominent Coptic businessman turned politician, Naguib Sawiris, accused the Egyptian military of being complicit in the massacre at Maspero on October 9. Sawiris rejected that the violence at Maspero was incited by “infiltrators” and stated that it is the responsibility of the military to safeguard security, in an interview on Al Arabiya TV’s “Point of Order”

But how did we reach the point where the masses are to a significant extent neutral to incidents like these ones and the majority even side with the army?

A few months ago clashes took place in Al-Abbasseya district, and activists then wrote how the SCAF incited against their march for days on the state-run channels, and issued a statement the night prior to the clashes also carrying the same tone. Recently the same tactics were used in the Maspero massacre, and according to Amira Nowaira, state TV was more blunt in incitement against the Copts:

This is the first time that State TV has been engaged in an open and shameless incitement against Copts. It did the unthinkable when it alleged that the army was being attacked by Copts and called on “honourable citizens” to come out to help defend the army, not realizing perhaps that it is the army that is supposed to defend citizens and not the other way round. This was tantamount to an invitation to extremists, bigots and racists to assault Copts on the streets.

Elazul summarizes the effect of the state media in the following paragraph:

Evidence only shows that not only were we opposed by Mubarak's group (including the SCAF), but also by a (large) segment of the population that until this day, curses the day we ever revolted, and considers us criminals & traitors.

Meanwhile, The Big Pharaoh added that the SCAF is also trying to deliver a certain message, not only to the Egyptians, but also to the US administration:

I wanted to know whether the Obama administration had gotten the message SCAF wanted to deliver ever since they allowed the Israeli embassy to be stormed. And this message can be summarized as follows: it’s either us or chaos in Egypt, it’s either us or sectarian strife.

Judging from the US’ mild statement after the massacre, I believe SCAF’s message was delivered. And it was not just delivered to the international community, but also to the general public as well. Fear and insecurity dominates the country today, and very few would like to collide with the military junta whom they consider to be the last remaining pillar holding the country together.

He then added that the delivery of such a message is like the green light for them that start a crackdown on activists and media:

This takes us to what I believe will happen to activists in Egypt. After ensuring that there won’t be much of a powerful objection from the inside front nor the international community, I believe SCAF will crackdown on activists and media unprecedentedly.

And this is exactly what many say is going on now. However, Abu Tawil mocked how the SCAF despite all this, is celebrating the raising of world’s highest flag in Egypt:

Naturally, in light of these troubled yet busy times and nearly eight months worth of their (mis)management, SCAF needed to take a break from trying activists in front of military trials, blaming invisible foreign hands for all of Egypt’s domestic problems, and decrying all protests and strikes for threatening national unity. Moreover thanks to the flight of foreign investment, dwindling foreign currency reserves, and an eighty percent decrease in the number of tourists, the Egyptian economy can afford to waste funds on useless public projects. As such, SCAF is proud to announce the raising of the world’s highest flag. Measuring 12 by 15 meters and flying at a height of 176 meters (14 meters higher than that of Azerbaijan), the flag has hoisted next to the dirt field where I play ultimate frisbee twice a week while patriotic poetry was recited and the national anthem was sung.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian parties are setting themselves for the parliamentary elections that will be held by the end of this month. And the importance of the coming parliament is that it will appoint the committee that will be writing the Egyptian constitution, however the Deputy Prime Minister for Political Affairs, Ali Al-Selmy, invited political parties in order to seek their agreement on constitutional principles that are seen to give the military extraordinary power.

On Twitter, the changes triggered much debate:

@abuhatem: The supra-constitutional principles document drafted by the government in Egypt gives military extraordinary power.

@zalali: New draft provides inordinate amount of power to #SCAF 2 intervene in the drafting of new #constitution. Some attendees left meeting. #Egypt

However Khaled is worried that people in the street might not be really critical to the draft as the activists on Twitter are.

@Khaled_A_: أكيد إللى هتسمعه من حد فى الشارع على الوثيقة الفوق دستورية: و ماله ما يكون فوق الدستور ده جيشنا ده هو إللى حمى الثورة ده مضربش عليكم نار

@Khaled_A_: I am sure this is going to be the comment of the people in the street about the supra-constitutional draft: What's wrong with the army being above the constitution? It's our army, and they protected the revolution and didn't shoot anybody then.

And finally, Mohamed Kamel wonders, if there is still a possibility for people to revolt again.

@MohHKamel: Would it be difficult to get people to revolt again after the last 9 months? No security, sectarian tensions, shaky economy?

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

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