Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Calls for ‘Uprising’ as Plan for Elections is Announced

The killing of over 50 Egyptians outside the Republican Guards Barracks on Monday morning continued to roil the country on Monday, as the Freedom and Justice Party, the civil wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, called for an “uprising” against the interim government.

The word used for ‘uprising,’ intifada, is the same word used by Palestinians protesting Israeli rule, and has less dire connotations than its English translation might suggest. Interestingly, the Brotherhood didn’t call for a “revolution,” which is a much more thoroughgoing phenomenon than popular demonstrations of the intifada sort. That is, what the Brotherhood said on Monday doesn’t seem very different from what Supreme Guide Muhammad Badie said last Friday.

It now seems clear that the Egyptian military deployed a disproportionate use of force in front of the barracks and likely many innocent non-combatants lost their lives.

However, it also seems likely that there was in fact an attack on the barracks by armed men. Some accounts say that they were riding motorcycles through the non-combatant crowd after dawn prayers had ended, firing at the troops and clearly intending to storm the barracks (where they believe deposed president Muhammad Morsi is being held).

The New Yorker found an eyewitness, a physician:

” I heard people through megaphones encouraging jihad. Then I saw four to six motorcycles coming from the direction of the Rabaa intersection to the Republican Guard barracks. Some people were still praying, some were not, because the dawn prayer had finished by then. The men on the motorcycles were all masked, and it was hard to see them through the dark and the tear-gas smoke, but they seemed to be shooting, they were coming from behind the protesters, so they were shooting toward the protesters and the Army.”

The troops should have had rubber bullets, not live ammunition, for crowd control, and should have blocked off the roads so that a motorcycle cavalcade couldn’t come barreling down toward the barracks, guns blazing.

Another eyewitness account, in Arabic on Facebook by Omar Ahmed (known to Egyptian friends whom I trust) is here

He says that the army did use a microphone to demand that the crowd near the Republican Guards Barracks disperse, and that the Brotherhood used their microphones to announce that martyrdom so near Ramadan would be a great thing. The army fired tear gas.

Then Omar heard firing at the troops and screams from the military side. The sniping was coming from al-Mustafa Mosque. The troops were also being hit with molotov cocktails. Then the microphone of the mosque threatened the troops, saying they are baby-killers.

Then a Brother began firing wildly with an automatic weapon. The troops returned fire and after that there were just bodies falling and men being taken into custody by the army. At 5 am, an hour into the clashes, reinforcements of more police and military showed up, and the Brotherhood militants withdrew to the Rabia al-Adawiya square or found refuge with local families in their apartments, even though many of the latter did not approve of the Brotherhood’s actions.

The dead include at least three military, and some 51 others, most of them likely non-combatants in the wrong place at the wrong time.

(A video circulating on the internet seeming to show an army sniper on a building is not actually relevant to the barracks killings, since it is in the daytime, and these events happened between 4 and 5 am. I don’t know what the context of that video is, and don’t doubt the military is capable of putting snipers on buildings to control mobs, but it is something else.)

Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, appointed a commission to investigate the deaths. But he really should insist on troops having rubber bullets for crowd control, as well as training for that purpose, and the commanding officer and the shooters responsible for the big death toll should be brought up on charges.

On Monday evening, interim president Mansour tried to change the conversation by setting out a timetable for return to elected government. He said that within 15 days, a council of jurists must be appointed that would have two months to revise the 2012 constitution, after they would present it to the president, who would hold a national referendum on it within a month of receiving it. Parliamentary elections must be held by the end of the year or very early in Jan. 2014.

The date for presidential elections hasn’t been set yet. In the meantime, the president exercises all executive functions and the judiciary is independent. (That is, the military is not a junta and has no executive power; President Mansour maintains that his appointment as president comes from the demands of the 4 million youth in the streets, not from a military appointment).

Muslim Brotherhood official Essam Elarian criticized the plan, saying that a constitutional declaration by a man appointed by coup leaders would take the country back to zero.

Mansour also announced the constitutional principles that will guide the transition to a new elected government. In essence, he limited his own powers with the equivalent of a bill of rights. One rather glaring problem is that this constitutional announcement, like previous Egyptian constitutions full of high-minded ideals and extensive civil liberties, is being daily contradicted by the actual behavior of the army and police, especially toward members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mansour will have to convince Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the police to return immediately to a rule of law and to charge detainees with explicit crimes as defined in existing statutes, or release them. Otherwise, the below principles are not worth the electricity it takes to publish them on the internet.

Mansour retained a controversial amendment to the 1971 constitution that makes Islamic law as interpreted in the Sunni tradition the “principal” source of legislation. It had originally been “a” source of legislation, but Hosni Mubarak threw this bone to the Muslim fundamentalists.

The 33-point interim constitution recognizes popular sovereignty and sees the people as the source of the branches of government. The third paragraph says that the economic system is based on social justice and that no one shall be exempt from paying taxes (US corporations wouldn’t like that provision).

Para. 4 says that citizens are equal before the law and shall not be discriminated against on the grounds of gender (al-jins), origin, race (naw`), language, religion or doctrine. The 2012 constitution did not guarantee equality before the law for women.

Para. 5 says that the private lives of citizens are sacrosanct and protected by the law, and that correspondence, whether mail or electronic, and telephone conversations, and other means of communication, are all sacrosanct and their secrecy is guaranteed except by the issuance of a warrant by a judge, for a limited period of time and in accordance with the law. (This one is now in advance of the practice in the United States).

It also guarantees against arbitrary arrest (which is hypocritical since the military is rounding up Muslim Brothers not known to have committed a crime).

Freedom of expression, conscience and religion is guaranteed, along with freedom of the press and printing. Censorship of newspapers is forbidden and no administrative impediment to them is allowed.

All citizens have the right to organize public meetings, processions and peaceful demonstrations in which no arms are carried, as long as the authorities are alerted to plans to hold them. Private meetings are protected and there is no need to alert the authorities. Security police may not attend private meetings. Citizens can form associations, unions,organizations and parties, as long as they don’t have militias and are not antithetical to the structure of society (i.e. no Ku Klux Klans). No political party may be formed that has as its basis the discrimination against citizens on the basis of gender, origin, or religion. No party may be dissolved except by judicial decree.

(The ability to form unions at will is a gain of the revolution; in the 2012 constitution, each occupation could have only one big national union, but that provision seems to be gone; workers *hated* it.)

Etc., etc. As I said, they are all nice words, but only significant if implemented.

30 Responses

  1. Wonder why they did not call for Jihad. So for them in Syria it is Ok but not in Egypt? Not very credible…

  2. According to the first investigative report from Egypt, most of the injuries were head and back injuries. So, they were shot in the head and the back, most of them.

    If the military was responding to a serious attack on them, what’s the likelihood that most of their shooting targeted the heads and the backs of those who were praying?

    As i said it several times before, this is going to be complicated and the blame is going to be harder and harder to assign with a great precision.

  3. I still believe this whole situation is being orchestrated by the Egyptian military in order to sideline the largest (organized) political threat to their continued lifestyles. By playing against the MB and then pandering to their opponents, the military is manipulating the situation.

    Egyptians will eventually find their army overlords are not altruistic benefactors at all. This is why I see the army removing Morsi as a VERY bad idea and even Morsi opponents should realize this.

  4. Egypt, like all countries in the Near East and elsewhere experiencing transitions, has a long way to go before anyone can say with certainty that democracy has taken root. It is amusing that so many observers, including the US Government under both Republican and Democratic administrations, experience heart palpitations and heavy breathing whenever there is a “free and fair” election in countries that were formerly authoritarian.

    Democracy is much more than one or two “free and fair” elections. It truly exists when certain concepts are institutionalized: Citizens petitioning their government, access to the courts, contracts honored, ordinary citizens having access to credit in the financial system, and a whole host of other institutionalized concepts that may take a couple of generations to be established.

    In the meantime, observers of both the Left and the Right should not get exercised because democracy has not taken root in various countries as quickly or seamlessly as they would like. There is not much we can or should do about it. Eventually democracy and its underpinning institutions take root if the countries themselves reach a certain “critical mass”: A certain level of middle class is reached, a certain standard of living is achieved, the population begins to see a stake in participating in their own government with results, etc. Without that critical mass, there will be no real democracy, and all of our hectoring about democracy, human rights, and other issues that animate so much of American and Western activists’ rhetoric will be just so much “feel good” rhetoric, satisfying perhaps, but ultimately empty.

  5. “It now seems clear that the Egyptian military deployed a disproportionate use of force…”
    Dear Professor Cole:
    I mind the qualifier on the above: Bullets, more so ARM FORCES bullets,regardless of how many, are incompatible with political discourse in Egypt or in any country.

  6. Bill: “…there will be no real democracy, and all of our hectoring about democracy, human rights, and other issues that animate so much of American and Western activists’ rhetoric will be just so much “feel good” rhetoric, satisfying perhaps, but ultimately empty.”

    Just a reminder, in case it’s needed (Bill), that there’s a lot of ‘feel good’ rhetoric involved in America’s still-potential democracy, which is still working things out and at this time is quickly devolving regarding actual access to voting, and is still a bought-and-paid-for system by unaccountable individuals and groupings of often unethically and illegally usurped great wealth, without any change in those particular corruptions on the horizon. The West has little room to preach or suggest.

    • “Just a reminder, in case it’s needed (Bill), that there’s a lot of ‘feel good’ rhetoric involved in America’s still-potential democracy, which is still working things out….The West has little room to preach or suggest.”

      The United States is not a perfect democracy and has its flaws, NewsNag, but it is, and has been for a long time, much further down the path of democracy and representative government than Egypt and the countries undergoing transition. Anyone who states otherwise either has his head in the sand or is deliberately obfuscating the truth in order to advance his own agenda and Narrative.

      Regarding your observation that the West has little room to preach or suggest, did you actually read my comment? Particularly my observation: “All of our hectoring about democracy, human rights, and other issues that animate so much of American and Western activists’ rhetoric will be just so much “feel good” rhetoric, satisfying perhaps, but ultimately empty”? You will note that I am not suggesting that the West’s “preaching and suggesting” will have any effect, not because the West has nothing to offer (it does), but because, as I stated in my original comment above, hectoring and preaching about democracy and human rights will do no good. It is only when countries reach a certain “critical mass” that they begin to develop a mature political economy worthy of the name.

      • I have spent the last 30 years warning people around me that the Reagan revolution was nothing more than a Trojan horse for an all-out attack on modern liberal democracy, financed by the rich and soldiered on by redneck suckers. They don’t want the 1950s back; they want the 19th century back, and increasingly in the media their elected darlings hint that they have the right to armed rebellion if their special rights as Christians and “entrepreneurs” are not allowed to steamroll everyone else. They created a media machine that slowly mainstreams extremist ideas. In the ’90s you had to go to gun magazines and Christian extremist pamphlets to find the ideas that are now an acid test to get nominated by the GOP in many states.

        Over and over again in those gun mags then and increasingly in larger and more public forums now they say that America is, and only can be, a republic, not a democracy. The media refuses to accept that such… Good Americans… can be saying what they are obviously saying; that states must have restored their right to restrict the vote as it was restricted in 1789. We can’t believe that anyone would seriously be that cruel and unjust, so we stop thinking.

        The Right got this far because the rich wanted the 19th century back too. That’s why our institutions will be (made) powerless to save us. The money spent to brainwash us with propaganda will mount into the billions and tens of billions; we will have no idea what the people we vote for really intend to do. Our system, like all systems, can be gamed by those with infinite cash, and once perverted, will be defended as sacred. We still need the power to take to the streets, or our enemies will take them instead.

        • “We still need the power to take to the streets, or our enemies will take them instead.”

          You have the power to take to the streets, SUPER390. No one is preventing you and like-minded colleagues from demonstrating for whatever cause you wish. I live in Washington, DC, and during the “Occupy” movement, there was an entire tent village of “Occupy DC” set up for months in McPherson Square. That some residents agreed with their program but many did not was inevitable and part of the public discourse.

          I suspect that your complaint is that you fail to get a majority of Americans to agree with your cause. Your problem is not that you lack free speech or the right to protest; you have the freedom to protest and speak out on any topic you wish: against capitalism, against US foreign policy, against corporations, etc. What I think you fail to comprehend is that because you have the right to protest and advance your causes does not mean that anyone has the obligation to agree with you in advancing those causes. The American public has as much right to disagree with your causes as you have to push for them.

          And please don’t advance the tiresome, arrogant argument that the American public doesn’t agree with your causes because Americans are ignorant and don’t know what is in their best interest; that they are manipulated by (fill in the blank–neocons, corporations, the military-industrial complex, etc.). That is an arrogant attitude that demonstrates a lack of nuance regarding what motivates people.

  7. Well, of course there was provocation. MB spent the weekend readying people to die, and the people preparing for the honor were interviewed in the western media. So why should we be surprised?

    And now that the obvious has been established, Nour is quickly back in the fold. There will still be people braying that what happened couldn’t have because it conflicts with their plans for Egypt (see above), but the result at this point seems to be that MB has marginalized itself even further and only its dead-end apologists and the people who confuse ballotization with democracy have anything to complain about.

  8. Al Nour Party simultaneously announced that it had withdrawn from the negotiations over the new government due to the massacres and rejected Bahaeddin’s nomination for PM. They seem encouraging on the latest proposal: economic Samir Radwan, who is well known and respected internationally.

    Egyptian TV stations, private and government have been running continuoulsy video have the confrontation sites that show armed, hooded men, shooting at police and soldiers and whoever else. Other reports claim MB protestors stabbed in the back by individuals in their own crowd who then run away. The government has committed itself to a transparent investigation as demanded by one and all. Human rights organizations and the Shaikh al Azhar have called on the government to reopen the Salafi TV stations. HR orgs have ascertained that the MB charge that women and children were among the victims was untrue.

    While there is a call to release all political prisoners [those from 2011 onward have still not been released] no HR or defense group can identify MB members/followers who are not detained for interrogation for suspicion related to specific crimes such as: weapons, incitement to violence [based on televised exhortations], or involvement in the 2011 prison break in which people were killed and Hamas/Hezbollah got thier guys out as well as the MB and then went back to Gaza. Evidence was strong enough last month for a court in Port Said to determine they had a good case and presented it to the prosecutor general. Others were quickly released.

    THUS FAR those individuals and organizations that have traditionally dedicated to human rights and legal issues have been just as active in the case of the MB and there is a pressure on this interim government for transparency.

  9. JUST ANNOUNCED: INTERIM PM IS ECONOMIST HAZEM BEBLAWY, another internationally known figure.

    • His initial statement indicates that he wants to prepare Egypt for some painful reductions in government subsidies. His bonafides seem to put him squarely in the neoliberal economic circles.

      But what will be the political consequences? Morsi may well see some benefit in not reaping the whirlwind.

      An interesting analysis below of the likely consequences.

      The economics of Tahrir
      Jul 9th 2013, 16:30 by by Bessma Momani | CIGI

      I expect to see the new government adopting tough economic policies backed by military might. That may allow it to shed the subsidies without forfeiting power. However, it will not restore investor confidence or win back the tourists who account for nearly 25% of the economy. There is instead a high risk that the military government will further alienate Egypt’s rural masses and urban poor. These constituencies were not among the crowds filling Tahrir on June 30th, but they do constitute Egypt’s true majority. If Egypt retains its subsidies, it will endure continued shortages. If it removes them, it will suffer further unrest. The military has overthrown the government but inherited all of its dilemmas. As the June 30th movement noted, the revolution will continue.

      link to economist.com

      • But since the rural poor sees the solution to all problems in theocracy and the urban poor opposes that, it sounds like they will cancel each other out – aided by the military allowing a low-level vendetta between them.

        Eventually these self-destructive neoliberal policies become so bad that even the middle class starts getting hurt. Then things will get interesting.

  10. As many comments acknoledged how much mone America Pays to Egyptian Army.

    May be something similar happened in the white house as was famously said by LBJ.

    “F..k your parliament and your constitution. America is an elephant. Cyprus is a flea. Greece is a flea. If these two fleas continue itching the elephant, they may just get whacked good …We pay a lot of good American dollars to the Greeks, Mr. Ambassador. If your Prime Minister gives me talk about democracy, parliament and constitution, he, his parliament and his constitution may not last long… “

    “Comment to the Greek ambassador to Washington, Alexander Matsas, over the Cyprus issue in June 1964. Quoted in I Should Have Died (1977) by Philip Deane, pp. 113-114”

    • Real life is made up of little anecdotes. Thank you, Shahid, for hanging that one on the clothesline, to remind us of the Pentagon Papers and Nixon’s tape machines and April Glaspie and a freakin’ gigantic tub of others including Castro’s beard-shucking cigar…

      Mine for today is a little vignette that anyone who worships or reveres or even honors what gets once again so disingenuously personified as “the military” ought to look at and remember, another tip of another iceberg:

      “Defense contractor to pay $6M amid allegations of Tampa-based fraud” link to tampabay.com

      And isn’t free enterprise wonderful? There’s a whole cottage industry of lawyers, ready to assist whistleblowers who can show actual dollar losses to we, the taxpayers, rather than desert-boot prints and skid marks and the imprints of tracked vehicles across our earnest trusting foreheads:

      link to federalgovernmentcontractorfraud.com

      For more of what really goes on every day with your hard-earned money, please feel free, as free as we actually are any more, to google “military procurement contractor fraud.” Fun stuff…

  11. Re the Cairo massacre: Dalia Zaida, a feminist and human rights advocate in Cairo reports that the Muslim Brotherhood started calling press contacts from 2 AM on saying they should get to the Republican Guard headquarters because there was going to be a massacre. link to youtube.com

  12. Stalin’s 1936 USSR Constitution has all kinds of high-minded stuff in it. Irrelevant to behavior in real life. It’s a Third World speciality.

    Kind of like neocons nattering about “human rights.”

    • In the “Gulag Archipelago”, Solzhenitsyn describes the code of criminal procedure applicable in the Soviet Union, but states it took great pains for him to actually be able to locate a copy of the document within Russia.

      The protections granted to Soviet citizen of that era were rarely actually accorded in practice.

      The RevTribunals created to suppress counter-revolutionary activity had no legal standards applicable to find a defendant guilty of counter-revolutionary conduct and had only one punishment authorized – death. Solzhenitsyn indicates that one preferred the criminal courts for that reason.

  13. What is happening to this “democratic” country? It seems like President Obama should not have chosen sides. He only caused instability to the region.

    • Except nobody seems to agree which side Obama has taken, the signals are all over the map.

      Whenever there is any awful turmoil around the world, the cheap shots comes flooding out. Often, people from the same political viewpoint make completely conflicting arguments, they share only the same absolute certainty that it’s all the U.S. president’t fault.

      • Oh, Richard, he took the WRONG side. It goes without saying, whichever side he took. He didn’t even have to do anything; that’s the beauty of it.

      • Except nobody seems to agree which side Obama has taken

        On the contrary, every faction is Egypt seems to agree that President Obama has take the other side.

  14. “Mansour also announced the constitutional principles that will guide the transition”
    Maybe if he adds that there will be no more overthrow of an elected government, specially a MB government and meet with Morsi and prevail upon him to resign, so he can be free to contest the next election.. No, he would not buy it; this is the military’s show, has been so since forever and not even Sisi can convince him of any difference, maybe Elbaradei can tell him, Shyster, you tried to steal the revolution and only came out of your hole, late in the game and said MB will not run for presidency, which you did and stack the parliament, rushed your constitution and were unwilling to compromise or cooperate up to even now and then precede to mummify him.

  15. In the abstract what is the proper behavior for an elected political party, and those that support it, when thrown out of office by a military coup?

    • Good question. For one, they should be mad as hell, and out in the streets protesting.

      If they were thrown-out by a coup initiated chiefly by the military, with the intention of instituting a military dictatorship, perhaps armed insurrection is the way to go.

      On the other hand, if they were rejected by a large majority of the nations citizens, I would advise that such a party accept their lesson and grudgingly return to politics after a venting period.

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