Ibrahim Eissa, formerly the Editor-in-Chief of Dostor, is currently the Editor-in-Chief of one of Egypt’s new post-revolution startup papers, Al-Tahrir (it only began circulation this past July) Of note, Eissa was one of the most vocal critics of Hosni Mubarak during the previous regime, even jailed in 2007 for allegedly “causing the loss of $350 million in foreign investment by reporting that the president was seriously ill.” Strong words, I suppose.
The below column, taken from Sunday’s paper, comes as Eissa is set to appear on a very special episode of Akhar Kalaam, the popular late night talk show hosted by Yousri Fouda, which has been suspended for the past three weeks due to apparrent SCAF censorship. Tonight, Fouda returns with Ibrahim Eissa and Alaa Al-Aswany as guests.
Below, Eissa warns of the calculating game the interior ministry has been playing, dangerously forcing the army into a more civilian role that pits them awkwardly against the people, as well as the folly of using youth committees (popular for the protection they provided during the revolution) to secure the elections.
Violence in the name of ethics
By Ibrahim Eissa
(translated by Eric Knecht and Mohamed Hatem Kamal)
Will the first stage of the elections be both the first…and the last? Postponement of the elections is a national crime, but as it stands they are severely vulnerable to a cancellation.
I fear that the coming round of parliamentary elections will be both the first and final round of elections.
No one wants a postponement of the elections, such a delay would be a national crime. But the elections are severely vulnerable to a cancellation, and with it, the cancellation of national demands, should this opening round of elections be mired in blood.
Every previous election has witnessed injuries and deaths, with not a single one passing without bloodshed. But this was in the framework of controlled elections – under the control of the state, its security apparatus and systematic fraud, and in the presence of judicial supervision unable to protect against killings. Despite this, the situation we find ourselves in now regarding the coming elections is even more dangerous and more problematic!
We’re talking about a horrendous failure on the part of both the military council and the government in the restoration of security on the streets of Egypt. Furthermore, as chaos escalates, disorder increases and vigilantism spreads, daily violence will become the new state of normalcy, and enough signs will be present – cut roadways, raids, kidnappings, robbery, revenge between families – to know that all of Egypt is affected, with no difference between upper and lower Egypt, or the capital from the provinces.
Of course, the military council claims it’s capable of protecting and securing the elections, claims that we hope will be true, but as of yet the military has failed to secure even a single place from disorder and chaos. And although the council says that it can contain rioting and violence during the election period, I don’t know how they are going to do this when they aren’t trained or qualified for this type of work and these sorts of tasks, as evidenced by the trap of Maspero, which the military council and its men fell into, and which resulted in the massacre of civilians and the fall of martyrs from the army itself. In other words, the army claims that it’s capable of protecting and securing the elections, but these are purely claims, claims that we can only hope turn out to be true.
The great Egyptian national army – the most important institution, and which has made the people proud since the era of Mohamed Ali Pasha – is moving towards a new trap at full speed. And despite the fact that we’ve requested from them that which is not possible, the army remains steadfast and ready for a war against the enemy, even though it does not have the very tools necessary to address the unique problems of popular uprisings, election riots, thuggery, or escalating tensions between tribes and families. Because of this, we’re forced to make a true sacrifice, the army, which offers itself up for the costly task normally under the purview of the civilian police and the Ministry of the Interior!
But there are people in the Interior Ministry playing games that are bigger than the kind-spirited and noble minister himself, and bigger than several of its other honorable leaders, and these games are damaging the relationship between the army and the people. By using the armed forces for crises, demonstrations, sit-ins, and riots, the army is left with two choices: either use force against the citizenry or stand idly by. Stuck in this awkward position, the army has thus failed at the tasks of governing and restoring calm!
I think that this is a very obvious and exposed conspiracy, one that the military council has been left out of, that Sharaf and Eissawy are sleeping on, and one not even detected by the blind political forces due to their ignorance and degenerating level of intellect. But this conspiracy is the most successful one we’ve seen during the transition period, which began with the initial police withdrawal and their pretend fear of returning, and continued with their ongoing evasion of responsibility as well their assigned tasks, making fools out of us with stories of their tired and depressed psychologies, as if we’re talking about fine artists or ballet dancers and not about police officers – their job is to be officers!
But if the chaos of the security situation is not the greatest danger to the coming elections, then the the chaos of undisciplined police and their withdrawal from election responsibility is. This police withdrawal is as an attempt to involve the army in the task of securing the elections – which the military council is overconfident it can do - despite a serious lack of evidence that the army has the ability to deal with civilians in a state of disorder and rioting.
One of the things I fear will lead to disaster is the formation of youth committees to protect the elections; this would surely be a fatal blow. The door to thuggery would be opened under a legal guise, and the committees would be a magnet for supporters and thugs of the candidates, members of political currents – especially Islamic ones – and would turn into flashpoints for wrestling and competition, violence and the ignition of discord.
Such ideas are capable of turning small pockets of violence into widespread bloodshed, and thus many people should reconsider their thinking on this issue. It appears that what is actually required is to categorically prohibit the youth councils in the elections from the outset.
Forgive my pessimism, and I will apologize for it should these events not transpire – it would be one of those few times in which you wish to be wrong.