In a letter leaked to the media and political analysts on 16 August, young Muslim Brotherhood detainees argue the group’s leaders should resign and make way for those “qualified to reach a deal with Egypt’s ruling regime and secure our release”.
The letter claims the “resignation request” was approved by 350 young members of the Brotherhood.
The four-page letter made it clear the group’s young detainees were fast losing hope of ever being released.
“We feel despair because we think political conditions in Egypt will not change anytime soon,” said the letter. “Yet some leaders, particularly those living abroad such as Mahmoud Hussein, still think Egyptians will revolt and change the regime. They are living in an imaginary world, and have shown they are incapable of learning any lessons from the past.
“We wonder how these irresponsible people became leaders in the first place,” the letter continued.
“The Brotherhood’s leaders have two choices: either to resign or take a step backwards to reach a solution with the regime in order to help secure the release of young Brothers before they lose their future and life,” said the letter.
Brotherhood leaders living in Turkey have accused security forces of dictating the letter in a bid to drive a wedge between the group’s members. The Brotherhood’s website Ikhwan Online insists the letter betrays the fingerprints of the security forces. “The words and the style of the writing,” it said, “show clearly it is the work of Egypt’s security apparatus.”
Amr Farouk, an expert on Islamist movements, posted on his Facebook page that he is convinced the document was produced by young Muslim Brothers. It is telling, he said, that the letter was produced on the sixth anniversary of the Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-in clearance.
Farouk argues the text of the letter shows rifts within the group deepening.
“The letter appeared two weeks after other young members accused Brotherhood leaders living in Turkey of embezzling millions of dollars from Qatar and other donors,” says Farouk.
“I expect these rifts to widen even more as Egypt moves towards greater economic and political stability.
“It appears some of the group’s leaders still bet that things could change in Egypt and the group will return to power. What the letter reveals is that young members behind bars have lost all hope in this prospect and want the leadership abroad to adopt a more realistic way of thinking.
“Essentially, they are demanding pragmatism from their leaders. They want them to reach a deal that could save the group from collapse. The problem is that Brotherhood leaders who fled to Turkey still reject any deal.”
Many of the group’s leaders, including its supreme guide Mohamed Badie, were arrested following the dispersal of sit-ins in Cairo and Giza in August 2013. Convicted of charges that range from manslaughter and terrorism to sabotage, they are facing life behind bars.
In its latest edition the weekly magazine Al-Mossawar published a long piece on the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian government, beginning in 1948 “when the war in Palestine erupted, and the Brotherhood was accused of mounting terrorist attacks against Jews, cinemas and cabarets and of mobilising its secret underground armed militia to kill former prime minister and interior minister Mahmoud Fahmi Al-Noqrashi”.
Penned by Helmi Al-Namnam, a former minister of culture, the article plots the periodic clampdowns on the group, beginning with the failed assassination of Gamal Abdel-Nasser in October 1954, after which “most of its leaders and members were arrested and sentenced to life in prison”. When Nasser subsequently pardoned many members of the group, they simply reformed and, in 1965, staged a second assassination attempt.
In the wake of the October War in 1973 Anwar Al-Sadat decided to pardon the group and set most of its members free. “Soon,” writes Al-Namnam, “they were inciting violence against president Sadat due to his decision to sign a peace treaty with Israel and most of the group’s members were rounded up and returned to jail.
“In response the Brotherhood cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman issued a fatwa denouncing Sadat was an infidel and calling for his murder.”
Sadat was assassinated on 6 October 1981.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 August, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Brotherhood’s internal wars