The Rewriting of Egypt’s Recent Events
The rewriting of recent events is about to begin.
A rewriting where Egyptian President Mursi was forced to put the November decree into effect to ‘save’ democracy — and that opposition to his decree were brainwashed into thinking it was unethical for any president to have no checks or balances. Never mind that President Mursi could have easily worked with the opposition to carry out revolutionary measures, as opposed to simply forcing through a constitution in a few days.
A rewriting where the opposition are accused of being guilty of thuggery, and are paid agents to engage in violence and destruction around the country. But without any mention of the fact that it was supporters of the president that descended upon a peaceful protest in front of the presidential palace, causing a conflict that left eight dead. Even in death, the narrative is being rewritten: now, all dead are supporters of the president, and none are opposition. As though it mattered, but it is not even true.
A rewriting where the opposition are all guilty of the outrageous Tweet by Alaa al-Aswany, the Egyptian novelist, who insisted illiterate Egyptians (some 30-40 percent of the country) should not have the right to vote in the referendum. Forget, of course, that he received immediate and harsh criticism from supporters of the opposition.
A rewriting where al-Baradei, the former Nobel laureate, is attacked for having a discourse that invites foreign intervention: but where supporters of the presidency are not brought to task for describing this crisis between Egyptians as being one where Islam itself is under threat. Where again, even in death, polarization is obvious: where the dead of the supporters of the president are in paradise, and the dead of the opposition are in hell.
Those will be the propaganda books, at least those published by supporters of the president. There will be other books.
However, those other books will declare that the opposition forces put up an incredible fight against the presidency. They will declare that the opposition united into the National Salvation Front, and stood their ground.
Those other books won’t point out, for example, that this‘united front’ was split, and while it included the likes of Hamdeen Sabahy and Mohammed el-Baradei, it didn’t include Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh.
Those other books won’t point out that when President Mursi called for a national dialogue, the key figures from the opposition lost a tremendous opportunity to show to the Egyptian people that they wanted to bring an end to this. Yes, the government accused them of being paid saboteurs –that’s even more of a reason to go to the negotiating table, if for no other reason than to show it wasn’t a real process.
Those other books will not mention that as a response to President Mursi’s decree that insisted on the referendum going forward on Dec. 15, the opposition could not even come to a united and prompt decision. Rather, for days, they gave mixed signals about whether or not they would boycott (not exactly a proven tool of effective politics in Egypt) or push for a “no” vote. That is hardly the decisive leadership that any political force needs, especially in a time of crisis.
Those other books will not mention that when the discourse on the streets of Egypt from the opposition intensified, resulting in burnings and attacks on the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom & Justice Party, the opposition couldn’t stop it. It wasn’t from lack of trying: but it was clearly evidence of a lack of a leadership and ability to provide direction.
Then, there will be other books still, different from both sets of propaganda above. There will be those books that talk about the fact that there were indeed ‘remnants’ of Mubarak’s regime at work in Egypt, and that both the MB and much of the anti-MB opposition opted to work with different remnants to battle the other. There will be those books that note that President Mursi, the first elected president of Egypt, could have, and should have, worked with those elements within the opposition (and there were many) that would have worked with him for the sake of Egypt. There will be those books that will note that this constitution, regardless of its content, was supposed to bring people together. But through this process, instead, just brought them apart.
In those books, there will be stories of the men and women, young and old, rich and poor, who refused to be drawn into adding to the polarization – and who insisted on bringing Egyptians together, against all odds. Despite reports to the contrary, their story is not over. Their story continues, and their struggle for a fairer and freer Egypt remains.
In the end, it is they who will be remembered. In the history books, rather than the propaganda books, it is they who will be remembered: as the Egyptian revolutionaries of the Jan. 25 revolution. And that revolution is not yet over.
Dr. H.A. Hellyer, non-resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution and ISPU, previously held senior posts at Gallup and Warwick University. Follow him on Twitter @hahellyer.
This article was published by Al Arabiya on December 11, 2012. Read it here.