2011-2013: The years of khamaseen

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 27 Jan 2022

Al-Ahram Weekly reviews a new book which provides hitherto unknown details of the upheavals Egypt passed through between 2011 and 2013

The years between 2011 and 2013 were the most dramatic in Egypt s modern history
The years between 2011 and 2013 were the most dramatic in Egypt s modern history

Yasser Rizk, the former board chairman of Akhbar Al-Youm press organisation, has released a book on the occasion of the 11th anniversary of the 25 January 2011 Revolution which led to the ousting of Hosni Mubarak from power.

According to Rizk, a military correspondent for more than 20 years, The Years of Khamaseen: Between the Anger in January and Salvation in June, tells the story of the period between the 25 January Revolution which led to the removal of Mubarak from office and the overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. (Khamaseen is the annual sand storm which hits Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula and Syria, Lebanon, , and Palestine in March and April.)

“They were the most dramatic three years in Egypt’s modern history,” says Rizk.

“As a journalist and an eyewitness, I was keen to record firsthand memories of the tumultuous events and expose secrets which very few know.” The book, he adds, “is less about recording the history of Egypt during a very critical period than showing future generations how they were about to lose their country to an irresponsible group.”

The volume is intended to be the first part of a trilogy about Egypt’s Second Republic.

“After throwing off the rule of the Mohamed Ali family in July 1952, Egypt was officially declared a republic on 18 June 1953. On 25 January 2011 this republic came to an end and after a two-year transitional period a new republic was declared on 30 June 2013, when the Egyptian people revolted to force the Muslim Brotherhood regime out of office,” says Rizk.

The first of the book’s seven chapters chronicles “the fall of the first republic”. The uprising against the Mubarak regime in February 2011, says Rizk, was no surprise to the Egyptian army.

Rizk reveals that in April 2010 — a year ahead of the revolution — Mubarak’s minister of defence Mohamed Hussein Tantawi received a classified report from Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, then chief of Military Intelligence, warning that public discontent against the ruling regime was rampant. The report referred to corruption and Mubarak’s grooming of his son, Gamal, as his successor as the main reasons for the simmering discontent, and noted that, after almost 30 years in power, Mubarak had lost interest in governing Egypt.

According to Rizk, Al-Sisi’s report informed Tantawi that “after the death of his grandson last year (June 2009) President Mubarak lost interest in power and on his 83rd birthday on 4 May 2010 he intends to resign from office and call elections which see his son Gamal succeed him.” The report warned that the planned inheritance scenario will face two obstacles, “mass public protests and rejection by the Armed Forces”.

Al-Sisi’s report predicted that the police would be unable to contain the outpouring of public anger and that the army would be called in, an event for which “we should prepare for from now”.

The uprising Al-Sisi expected on Mubarak’s birthday in 2011 came four months early because, says Rizk, “of the rigging of parliamentary elections in November 2010, and the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution which led to the overthrow of president Zein Al-Abidine bin Ali on 14 January 2011”.

As presidential correspondent for Al-Akhbar newspaper between 1989 and 2008, Rizk had covered Mubarak’s foreign visits and press conferences. “Mubarak used to get annoyed whenever he was asked why he had not appointed a vice president,” writes Rizk. “Then, after his son Gamal entered politics in 2000, whispers began about an inheritance project, and Mubarak had refused to name a vice president. As a result, Tantawi and the then chief of [General] Intelligence Omar Suleiman met with Mubarak in early 2009 to warn him of such a course.”

Ignoring the warnings, and following the death of his grandson in May 2009, Mubarak allowed his son Gamal to act as a caretaker president.

Rizk’s first chapter also repeats the theory that the 25 January uprising “was an American conspiracy”. “The first step in this direction,” he writes, “came when US president Barack Obama delivered a speech in Cairo University in June 2009.” Rizk cites Obama’s own book, The Promised Land, as providing evidence for how Washington pressured Mubarak to allow the speech to be delivered at Cairo University, and subsequently step down in 2011.

The second chapter, “The First Transition”, spotlights the growing political role of Al-Sisi.

“Even though I had served as a military correspondent for 23 years, my first meeting with Al-Sisi was in March 2011, a month after Mubarak’s resignation,” writes Rizk. He was struck by how “Al-Sisi was keen to show himself to journalists not only as a senior military officer but also as a national leader.”

The third chapter, “The Republic of Mirage and the Group of Treachery”, recounts how Al-Sisi reacted when the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Morsi was elected president in June 2012.

“When Morsi was officially declared the winner, I called Al-Sisi by phone, asking for a comment,” writes Rizk. “I asked Al-Sisi whether he thought Morsi would be able to free himself from the Muslim Brotherhood’s tight grip and the control of its supreme guidance office. Al-Sisi’s answer was very significant: he said the question is not will he be able, but whether he really wants to free himself from the group’s control.”

The third chapter deals with Morsi’s appointment of Al-Sisi as minister of defence. “Al-Sisi was completely unaware that it was Tantawi who nominated him to be his successor,” writes Rizk.