Blood and Fire in Egypt, Hope and Faith in Egypt

Look at her face for a moment. Her name is Asmaa El Beltagy. She is 17 years old. I know very little about her. But she is a protester for the reinstatement of Mohammed Morsi ,so I think I disagree with her about practically everything. I think we want radically different things for the world. We want different things, she for her country, I for mine. Look at her. She was on the streets today, participating in a pro-Morsi sit-in.

It was a horrific day in Egypt. At least 157 dead, 5.000 injured. Major Muslim Brotherhood leaders arrested. Protests scattered. State of Emergency declared. The state of exception extended. Churches burned:

I’m watching things play out in anguish and despair. I have friends in Cairo, their families and children. I think of them. But I don’t just have friends in Cairo, I have faith in Cairo, and hope invested in the country. Egypt showed us all what the will of the people could be, even in the face of authoritarian thugs and their secret police henchmen. That if the people kept saying enough in a loud enough voice, refused to submit to power, then the power had no power.

But after the Arab Spring, fall fell like a hammer. The Muslim Brotherhood used their democratic powers to undo democracy in what must be the fastest counter-revolution in history. They stifled the people. And the people wouldn’t take it. And they rose up and showed the government there was no mandate for them anymore.

And then the military intervened, and toppled Morsi and we were all suddenly cheering uncomfortably at a military coup. And soon enough, we came to see this for what it really is: the secular democratic movement made a faustian bargain with the military, and the military slipped from its chains and started shooting pro-Morsi protesters.

We are left waiting for the voice of the people of Egypt to sound again. But the message the people needs to send becomes ever-more complicated: no to violence, but also to the counter-revolution the violence oppressed; no to the Muslim Brotherhood and their machinations, but also to the oppression of the Muslim Brotherhood’s legitimate right of protest. These are complicated forces to balance up against each other. But the yes is easy: yes to democracy, yes to justice, yes to freedom. The goals of the revolution in Egypt remain the same. But the old ideologies keep interposing themselves between the lawless present and the democratic future.

Mohamed ElBaradei resigned today. He said he could not be responsible for a single drop of blood while there are peaceful options. And there are. I hope that his voice becomes the beginning of a new wave of nonviolent direct actions.

As you all know, I have had views on how to disperse those protests in a peaceful manner, and many suggestions as to how we can begin a National reconciliation. But, after today, I think reconciliation will come but only after we pay a very high price for a long time.

Therefore, it’s become increasingly hard for me to bear the responsibility of actions I do not agree with, decisions with conscequences I fear and I cannot be responsible for a single drop of blood that will be shed. The only ones who benefit from today’s events are the terrorists and the anarchists and the extremists, and you will do well to remember what I said. May god save and bless Egypt and it’s people.

But ultimately, I’m left feeling a sense of tragedy. Of hopes dashed. Dreams crushed. The military machine, built by decades of authoritarian rule, armed by foreign powers, responded to the people daring to make their voices heard by protesting in public. It was something that, perhaps, they just couldn’t understand as something that was now possible.

Tearing dictators down is not as hard as building a democracy is. And if history shows anything, it is that the time between the revolutions is the important time. The building up, the organising. It comes in waves. Eventually it breaks the dam.

Protest is the symbol of democracy. And a 17 year old girl that I did not agree with, who was shot in the back of the head this morning, is that symbol for me today. Because I did not agree with her. Because she was out in the streets trying to advocate for what she wanted, however I might think of what she wanted. I know that if I were in her position, I would be doing the same.

Look at her face for a moment and think about what her death, along with that of 150 of her comrades, should mean to you. Egypt owes her.

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Updates and further reading:

Horrific photo collection at The Atlantic’s photo blog. Shows the human cost of what is happening.

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One last thing to share: A surprising voice of reason today, when The Socialist Worker printed a statement from the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists.

The Revolutionary Socialists did not defend the regime of Mohamed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood for a single day. We were always in the front ranks of the opposition to that criminal, failed regime which betrayed the goals of the Egyptian Revolution. It even protected the pillars of the Mubarak regime and its security apparatus, armed forces and corrupt businessmen. We strongly participated in the revolutionary wave of 30 June.

Neither did we defend for a single day the sit-ins by the Brotherhood and their attempts to return Mursi to power.

But we have to put the events of today in their context, which is the use of the military to smash up workers’ strikes. We also see the appointment of new provincial governors—largely drawn from the ranks of the remnants of the old regime, the police and military generals. Then there are the policies of General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi’s government. It has adopted a road-map clearly hostile to the goals and demands of the Egyptian revolution, which are freedom, dignity and social justice.

This is the context for the brutal massacre which the army and police are committing. It is a bloody dress rehearsal for the liquidation of the Egyptian Revolution. It aims to break the revolutionary will of all Egyptians who are claiming their rights, whether workers, poor, or revolutionary youth, by creating a state of terror.

However, the reaction by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists in attacking Christians and their churches, is a sectarian crime which only serves the forces of counter-revolution.

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