Egypt: The New Born Military Dictatorship

by Maha Al Aswad

Screen Shot of the Military Dictatorship page on Wikipedia

Screen Shot of the Military Dictatorship page on Wikipedia

ِAnd so we are now a military dictatorship, says wikipedia. Day after day, I was feeling that we are already a military dictatorship. I googled the term in order to get more insight. I was hoping I was wrong.  I scrolled down the wikipedia page to stop in surprise! Egypt was listed as one of only three military dictatorships in the world, along with North Korea and Fiji. Sadly, it says ” since the Egyptian Revolution, 2011″.

I paused there in shock. This is not happening. Wikipedia is not ‘ The Perfect Source’, it is not an academic encyclopedia, yet they just stated the truth.

What happened after Mubarak stepped down?

The Supreme Council for Armed Forces SCAF took over, and promised in their statements that they will protect the revolutionary legitimacy.

Then there was a referendum for people to decide whether they still want to have the 1971 constitution after amending few articles in it [from which Egyptians suffered for the past 40 years for giving a dictator authorities to the president, among other things], OR to have a constitutional declaration which stipulates basic rights in the transitional period until the new constitution is drafted. The whole thing was fishy. Why in the world would people be questioned whether they want a failed constitution to be in place? Revolutions make constitutions fall! Especially dictators constitutions!

After the implicit support of SCAF, and direct support of Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists to vote YES, including using religious discourses, people actually voted yes. only 4 millions out of 18 millions voted NO. Why? Because people felt this is best for the ‘stability’ of the country as SCAF was advocating.

Surprisingly, SCAF afterwards discovered the huge constitutional stupidity, because the 1971 constitution doesn’t allow SCAF to be on top of power. So what did they do? They simply issued a wholly new constitutional declaration, which basically transfers the dictator powers that were given to the president in the 1971 constitution, to SCAF. So HOORAY! We have a new dictator! Article 56 of the Constit. Declaration highlights SCAF’s authorities- [my translation below]

Article 56: The Supreme Council of the armed forces manage the affairs of the country, and in order to do that assume the following powers:

1 Legislation.
2 Adoption of the policy of the state and the public budget and monitor its implementation.
3 Appointment of the appointed members in the People’s Assembly.
4 Calling upon the People’s Assembly and Shura Council to hold their regular sessions, and calling for an extraordinary session and calling for their suspension.
5 Right to promulgate laws or object to them.
6 representing the State domestically and abroad, and the ratification of international treaties and conventions, and they are considered part of the legal system in the country.
7 Appointment of the Prime Minister and his deputies, ministers and their deputies and relieving them from their posts.
8 Appointment of civil servants and military and political representatives and removing them from their posts in the manner prescribed in the law, and the approving the representatives of foreign states.
9 To pardon or commute a sentence, but amnesty shall not be granted except by law.
10 Other powers and functions of the President of the Republic as prescribed under laws and regulations.

The Council may delegate its Chairman or one of its members in any of the terms of reference.

Who was consulted when drafting the 62 articles  constitutional declaration and SCAF authorities? Definitely NOT the Egyptian people.

If the army really wanted to protect the revolutionary legitimacy, they would have worked very hard from day one to transfer authority to an elected civil entity. Money spent on that useless referendum could have been invested in democratic direct elections for a presidential council along with a committee drafting the nation’s new constitution.

The crazy rush for SCAF to be in control of the transitional period in Egypt poses a lot of questions about their intention in the near future. A revolution happened in Tunisia as well and it ousted their president, but hey! Wikipedia didn’t include them in the list of the world’s military dictatorships. Guess why? Because although the army interfered to protect the revolution as well in Tunisia, they didn’t seek power afterwards. Very clear I think.

Egypt under Military Rule

What has been happening since then is how normally military dictatorships rule. Nothing new here.

Military trials of civilians

Military trials for civilians since they were first called in to streets by Mubarak on Jan. 28th.  Human Rights groups say the number reached thousands of civilians in military prisons.

Excessive use of force

SCAF exerted all possible efforts to end the protest in Tahrir, using media, mobilizing people against each other and finally: excessive use of force. 26 of February, 6 and 8 of March, 9 and 12 of April  and 15 of May are all dates on which the Egyptian army attacked peaceful protests.  They used live ammunition to clear some of them and beating and electric shocks in all of them. What happened on April 9th in Tahrir square for example will always be stuck to our memories.

Tahrir was refilled with innocents’ blood again, after less than two months since Mubarak stepping down. Using live ammunition didn’t stop since then. We all witnessed what happened on Nakba day: 15 May.

Human rights NGOs were trying their best to document deaths and injuries, but looking for such info was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Apparently orders were given not to release any info regarding deaths. Humble data on injured were released, exactly as what happened on April 9th. Which actually reminds me of the early revolution days, when Government hospitals participated in the conspiracy against revolutionaries and refused to issue them medical reports, or state the right reason for death on death certificates and many other.  It is like history is repeating itself.

Torture and ill-treatment

Torture has been going on and on. The Egyptian museum was used as a military-run torture base actually throughout the Tahrir protest. Revolutionaries were kidnapped from Tahrir and surrounding streets, beaten, harassed and humiliated. Virginity tests were conducted to females!!!! As a victim testified, they were stripped naked while doctors checked them out, leaving the door of the room open, allowing other army officers outside to witness the whole thing, and a male army officer was present inside the room. What kind of sick mentality is this? What kind of laws allow them to invade the privacy of those HUMAN BEINGS like that? Then of course, a total local media blackout on the issue afterwards. Several Human Rights groups issued strong statements, calling for investigations in the matter, then we heard nothing at all about it.

The Egyptian army also invaded Cairo University campus, beat and dispersed using force students who were protesting inside school of Mass Communication against their Pro-Mubarak dean.

What kind of laws allow a state army to attack universities?

Laws?

Well, it is military rule. Laws DON’T have to exist anyway. SCAF invents laws. SCAF issues laws and SCAF can’t be questioned for any of their actions. Questioning SCAF is just not constitutional. Actually some ‘intellectuals” called upon the army to apply Martial Law to even suppress peaceful protests more and more.  Little did they know. Emergency law is actually still functioning. Yes, the revolution didn’t manage to take this one down. Curfew is still there [ 2-5 am]. HELLO! We are under military rule.

Using their ‘constitutional legislative powers’, they issued several laws without consulting anyone. Including the famous anti-protests law (!!!), political parties law, and the law administering political participation. All are issued without consulting the people. National political powers and human rights NGOs are excluded. The latter actually *wasted* tens of years conducting research and publishing scholarship about law and constitution reform and now they are being marginalized.

Phony national debates and neo-intellectualism

Moreover, SCAF folks were very lucky indeed.  A bunch of intellectuals and activists took their side, and voluntarily started advocating for SCAF and its importance to keep stability in Egypt post-Mubarak. One of them actually stated live in a press conference while hitting his fist on the table: THE ARMY IS A REDLINE!! With their own hands they created a new dictator, a god who they started to worship.

Soon SCAF and his weak adherent the so-called “transitional government” led by Sharaf, started to create fora for national debate. Like these amazing National debate sessions taking place these days. Debating what exactly? Nobody knows. Laws governing the transitional period were issued already or are in the making while they are sitting there ‘debating’ in front of TV cameras.  Invitees to those national debate sessions include former NDP members. Isn’t this just lovely? They filled the country with corruption for the past 30 years and incited against the revolution and revolutionaries, then are now invited to reflect on their visions regarding New Egypt.

How democratic we are!

When one of the revolutionaries took the floor, in pne of the sessions and expressed his opinion regarding Mubarak cronies being invited and criticized SCAF’s performance during the transitional period, they cut live streaming off the debate. This is not the first time. the same thing happened with Bothaina Kamel, an activist and a potential presidential candidate when she was talking live On Egyptian TV about SCAF violations. She was later called in for interrogation at Military prosecutor’s.

But HEY. This is not a freaking nightmare. It is just military rule.

Justice

All this is happening while people don’t have the slightest trust in the current Egyptian Justice system to prosecute the former regime, and I don’t only mean the big heads. Policemen also had their share in violations and murder.  Hassan Nafaa actually wrote a very important article about his personal experience in litigating one of the policemen accused of killing protesters during the revolution. We need some kind of transitional justice that can deal with the huge violations committed by Mubarak regime, not only during the revolution, but for the past 30 years.

Until now there is no serious official initiative to compensate martyrs families or treat the injured. Thousands are in serious condition and can’t afford treatment expenses.

I really can’t remember all the violations of SCAF. The problem is that more and more violations happen everyday. Nobody seems to be able to stop it. But hey, it is military rule.

A ‘temporary’ military rule?!

Some activists and politicians are actually avoiding discussing those serious violations of freedoms and human rights, claiming that it is just a temporary period and that everything will end after the parliamentary elections. I am wondering how can they trust the army over the transitional period? How can we guarantee that the transfer of power will be actually transparent and peaceful as they hope/believe?

The new law administering political participation actually didn’t overcome some of the most serious problems in the previous law. One of them is the executive powers of the committee supervising the elections. The supervising committee  didn’t have any executive powers in the previous law, they just had the mandate to supervise the electoral process, including for example supervising “the preparation of  electoral lists.” Those lists [ voters names lists] were a main reason behind elections rigging in previous years, because they were not updated and had dead people names listed [who were actually able to vote!].  Voting now with National ID card is good, but electoral lists are still there and need serious reconstruction with proper supervision.
Who will do that? Other concerns were expressed by political powers who felt totally marginalized.

Sectarian violence

SCAF also has a failed domestic policy to face sectarian violence. [ they deal with it with Customary Reconciliations Sessions between Muslims ‘mostly Salafis’ and Christians!! Yes! in the year 2011, after the Jan 25 revolution, we still resort to customs rather than law. This of course comes with a mysterious disappearance of the law enforcement entity: POLICE from all over Egypt.

BUT HEY AGAIN. It is military rule! What law and order are you talking about?!

Bottom line..

So the democratic process in the transitional period in Egypt is a complete failure. Human rights violations continue, military trials for civilians continue, and then we still find intellectuals and activists who defend SCAF, thinking that there will be an easy transfer of powers. Really?

The Way Out?

Now the only way out as I see it is a second revolution on May 27th. Personally I am calling for a transitional elected civil entity and a directly elected committee to draft the constitution. I need to feel I am standing on common grounds with the entity ruling the country. I am a civilian. Normally civilians ELECT CIVILIANS to represent them. And we, the people of Egypt, made a revolution that took a dictator down. We deserve better than being one of the three military dictatorships in the world. Shame on SCAF and shame on whoever let them think they are above the people.

#NOSCAF

-This post is a response to the call some activists issued to blog exposing SCAF violations in Egypt. You can find hundreds of other posts on this facebook page or on twitter using the hashtag #NoSCAF.

-I personally dedicate this post to the blogger Maikel Nabil who was arrested by the Military Police and was subject to a military court that sentenced him to a three years in prison for publishing a post documenting army violations. He is in jail for expressing his opinion and wasn’t even subject to a fair civil trial. Now after hundreds of Egyptian bloggers blogged exposing SCAF violations, I am wondering how they will get to catch us all. Long Live Free Egypt.