Bloodshed in occupied Egypt
As I sat down to write this piece yesterday, the Egyptian military had killed more than 600 people in just a few days, during its bloody crackdown of the supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi. Young and old men, women and children had been shot or burnt to death on the orders of Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the leader of the coup, and his fellow thugs. Egypt, in short, has been under the brutal occupation of its own army, which has been massacring peaceful protesters en masse.
The fact that supporters of Morsi, most of them members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the real target of the coup, have remained peaceful is crucial. From the beginning of the coup, MB spokesmen announced that they would only organize non-violent protests and sit-ins, and they have done exactly that. Of course, the occupation forces (the “Egyptian military” and the “interim government”) depicted them as “terrorists,” as tyrannies usually do to their opponents before killing them. Yet, as the Western media also confirmed, protesters remained non-violent before and during the massacres. (Sky News correspondent in Cairo, for example, announced, “There is no evidence of weapons being used by demonstrators.”)
After the brutal attack by occupation forces, various churches and government buildings have been attacked as well, and no doubt this deserves full condemnation, too. Yet, it is not clear who attacked the churches, as the MB spokesmen condemned these attacks and blamed the military. And while it is indeed a grave risk that the protests might turn violent, the blame is on the occupation forces first and foremost.
But only them? What about the “international community,” which, as seen before, did very little to stand by democracy when it did not fancy its winners? The United States government, for example, shied away from calling the military coup a coup, and even offered a ridiculous definition for it as “the restoration of democracy.” The logic of Washington has been that if the U.S. defined the coup as a coup, then it would not be able to finance the military that executed it. (What a logic, right? It is like saying, “if I call the murderer a murderer, then I will not be able to able to give him more guns.” This inanity unfortunately made the Obama administration “complicit” in the crimes of occupied Egypt, as a Washington Post editorial put it well.)
Of course, there have been principled stances in the West as well, such as Senator John McCain of the United States, who had condemned the coup, or the Danish government, which suspended its aid to Egypt. Yet, all in all, the Western reaction to the horror in Egypt has been meek enough to convince many Muslims that “democracy is a lie.” Meanwhile, Turkey, despite its growing deficiencies of democracy at home, did the right thing for Egypt by condemning the coup and calling for the restoration of democracy.
Where Egypt goes from here depends largely on how ruthless the occupation forces are. But it also depends how patient and wise the MB will be. The Islamist party must preserve its commitment to non-violence and take a clearer stance against attacks on churches and other innocent targets. Meanwhile, it should seek for a long-term victory, which can only come through the path that Turkey’s Islamists took at the turn of the century: Reform yourself, develop a more inclusive and pragmatic rhetoric, and get ready for the next elections.
NOTE: I will be off for two weeks. Hope to be back on Sept 4.