Demonstrations have allegedly flooded Ramses Square and several others erupted in many governorates both in the southern and northern parts of Egypt. Photos accompanying this news have dominating the screens, and as part of my work, I have to determine the facts, or rather differentiate between illusion and reality.
So, I called for an emergency meeting with most department heads at the newspaper. The reporters and photographers were assigned to go down and dig deep for facts. Moreover, I called several security and administrative officials in Cairo and several other governorates.
I received a stream of calls denying the existence of small groups in the streets. The more valuable calls came from our reporters on the streets – be it in Cairo or other governorates – where the Muslim Brotherhood claimed the existence of huge demonstrations. All the reporters simply reported back: “there is nothing.”
The truth was simple. Earlier, the government had launched a campaign against those who constructed on agricultural lands. The procedure was difficult and harsh, especially for those who built their homes and mosques on some of our most fertile areas. They usually start by levelling the agricultural land to make bricks. Workshops all along the borders and on agricultural land were obvious because of the chimneys making bricks out of fertilised soil.
The Nile Delta is known as one of the most fertile lands worldwide due to the accumulation of Nile slit for thousands of years. However, people started to level the land, make bricks and then built houses for them and their children. Later, they would go as far as building a mosque, which would make it harder for any official to change the de-facto situation. The mere presence of a mosque practically means that the government has to supply the area with pipelines of water and electricity, and no one would ever think of demolishing the holy building.
Unfortunately, local authorities contributed to the ongoing destruction of the limited fertile lands around the Nile with their silence, and the fertile land turned into a heath. When the 2011 revolution erupted, this mafia seized this rare opportunity and doubled their efforts on an unprecedented level. The area of land that had been turned upside down and used for making bricks and buildings reached a dangerous stage, and this practice has to stop.
Kemet, or the fertile land, which later became known as Egypt, has been threatened in so many ways to become the uncultivated land of the Nile. Despite the fact that demolishing all the big and violating buildings was difficult, the government struck a deal for the violators to pay a fine to compensate the country for its lost lands. Such procedures would secure enough revenue for the government to reclaim lands in the desert and at the same time draw a red line for those intending to exercise the same practice in the future.
However, this would never have gone unnoticed by the Brotherhood. Putting an end to a malicious practice and securing the rights of future generations to Kemet was dubbed by the Muslim Brother as illegal taxing. What they are looking for is not construction, but destruction.
Therefore, the videos on the screens that showed demonstrations were meant to instigate disturbance, chaos, and panic. One of our journalists assigned to find out the truth behind these “demonstrations” found that these were old videos showing the demolition of buildings and houses that took place years ago, and in some cases were in the West bank, not even in Egypt. The scenes were professionally interconnected to enhance the impact.
The demolition of illegal structures should have taken place long ago, and the current government should be praised for tackling the issue now. However, if there are some cases where demolition has negative human consequences, the government should be looking for different solutions.
It is true that violators should bear the consequences, but the government should also not rush into executing the order without first searching for solutions. All parties involved in this dilemma should bear the consequences, starting with officials at the local administrations, to the constructors, the owners and the residents. Our fertile land should be as sacred as the Nile, whose water we are now fighting to preserve.
The demolition process was a good opportunity for the Muslim Brothers to create what they are best at, “victimisation” issues. However, this issue was not enough, they have to launch a campaign against the army, which has been involved in the construction process all over the country, targeting the strong bond between the people and the army.
One should look around and consider the difficult environment this government has been through. COVID-19 disrupted the economies of most countries around the world. Turkey’s economy has been a pain and its currency is set to crash. The United States, which has single-handedly ruled the world for decades, has to borrow $6 trillion to cope with the negative impact of the virus, which has infected almost 7 million Americans and led to the death of 200,000.
In Egypt, we have 100,000 infections, which is almost 1.5 percent of the US. The unprecedented unemployment rate has disrupted the most powerful economies. But, in Egypt, with the peoples’ support and the government’s efforts, this country has been through the difficult time of the virus with minimal negative impact.
The Muslim Brotherhood is looking at the “straw,” or the negative effects of the harsh construction procedures taking place in Egypt, but unable to see the strong and blinding sticks in the eyes of their sponsors in Turkey and Qatar. They have never uttered a word about Turkey’s malicious and colonial plans in the region, nothing was said about Ankara’s failing economy and its international isolation. They evaded the talk about Turkey’s ailing membership in NATO and its close ties with Israel. Nothing was also said about Qatar’s alliance with terrorist groups around the world, but the Brothers’ media machine, funded by Qatar and Turkey, played old records of the past.
The problem in Egypt is not with the helpless, divided and divisive Brotherhood. The issue lies with those who fund the group, especially Turkey, which has had an eye on Egypt’s unlimited natural resources, which will make this country one of the leading economies worldwide.
We recognise the intentions of the two sides and therefore we are making our army ready. But, is it not better to spend the money on the poor instead of purchasing weapons to avoid demolitions and taxing? We believe that they want this country to be weak, unable to confront the Ottoman’s malicious plans, because when Turkey spends a lot on its military stockpiles despite its economic hardships, the Brotherhood’s media machine hails such efforts, which would make their sponsor able to destroy their own country.
The fact is that the colonial policies have never changed… they have always been putting limitations on the size, type of weapons and the training of the armed forces. But this time, they cover up their policies in the context of the poor economic situation. They have been looking forward to breaking up this country, which is an unattainable goal.
*Alaa Thabet is the editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram daily