A fact-finding committee mandated to investigate violent events in Egypt since the 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi has sharply attacked Islamist parties, labelling them as reactionary, undemocratic and advocating they be dissolved as a condition for healthy political life in the country.
The committee's chairman, Fouad Abdel-Moneim Riad, while reviewing a 47-page report issued by the committee on post-Morsi violence, said: "We highly recommend that political Islam parties be dissolved in accordance with Article 74 of Egypt's 2014 Constitution and also in order to safeguard society against the reactionary ideology of these factions which like to mix religion with politics."
The report, according to the committee's secretary-general and spokesperson, Omar Marawan, included as many as 60 recommendations for the government and other state authorities to adopt in a bid to stem the tide of violence and extremism in Egypt.
Riad, in a press conference held in the main chamber of Shura Council, said in collecting data and information about post-Morsi violence in Egypt, the committee exercised extreme neutrality, impartiality and independence. "We are independent of the government and our role was just to collect information and data, document them, and not to direct a list of charges against any party," said Riad.
Riad said the committee's report on post-Morsi violence includes 767 pages, in addition to 11,000 pages of corroborating documents and CDs featuring field footage of the violent events.
Riad said the six-member committee also sought the help of experts on international law for reasons of accuracy and professionalism.
According to Riad, "The report issued by the committee should be the last about post-Morsi events." "We should not speak about the past anymore," said Riad, adding that "as many as 60 recommendations listed at the end of the report should be used by decision-makers and civil society activists to draw up a better future for Egypt."
The three-hour conference was attended by Boutros Boutros Ghali, the former UN secretary-general, Amr Moussa, former secretary-general of the Arab League and chairman of the 50-Member Committee that drafted the country's new constitution, and a number of foreign ambassadors in Cairo.
The conference included a video film, beginning with a speech in which former president Mohamed Morsi vowed that he would respect the constitution. The film, accompanied by comments from Marawan, reviewed stormy events that hit Egypt during and after the rule of Morsi. On top of these events included attacks levelled by the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which Morsi hails, against the headquarters of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Media City, the Sunni Islam institution of Al-Azhar, and the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo.
Recommendations listed in the report assert there is a pressing need to impose political disenfranchisement on Islamist parties, and political Islam factions. Riad said: "The committee urges all learn lessons from post-Morsi violence in Egypt and draw up an agenda for a better future for the country."
Topping the list of recommendations is the necessity of dissolving political Islam parties. Under the title "Conclusion," the report accuses the Muslim Brotherhood of hijacking democracy and rejecting any kind of national consensus during the period that followed the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 and until Morsi was ousted 3 July 2013. "In accordance with this distorted conception of democracy, the Brotherhood moved against the rule of law in terms of attacking judges, security forces, the army, the media, Al-Azhar, secular opposition and cultural institutions," said the report, adding that, "The lesson we must learn from this experience is that political Islam forces must not be allowed to exercise politics in this country."
According to the report (page 43), "The Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islam factions usually favours armed confrontation at the expense of peaceful dialogue." "They adopted the strategy of scorched earth and were about to plunge Egypt into a civil war."
The report blamed former Minister of Defence Mohamed Hussein Tantawi for helping the Muslim Brotherhood — which emerged as the most organised force after Mubarak's ouster and under the one-year rule of the military — to reach power. "Tantawi, in doing his best to save Egypt from civil war, automatically led the Muslim Brotherhood to ride the wave and reach power."
Riad said the Muslim Brotherhood turned its post-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo and Giza into armed gatherings. "The evidence detailed by the report show that the group's leaders, espousing the extremist ideology of Islamist ideologue Sayed Qotb, turned the sit-in into armed confrontation against state authorities." "We documented that the first shot was directed by an armed Brotherhood activist, leading to the death of a police officer," said Riad.
Riad said that while Brotherhood protesters in Giza's Al-Nahda Square opted for a peaceful exit, those at Cairo's Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Square "insisted on fighting police forces."
This led to the death of 607 citizens in Rabaa, while 86 died in and around Giza's Al-Nahda Square.
Riad blamed the government for taking too much time to disrupt the Brotherhood sit-ins. "If the government moved early to disrupt them, the number of victims would not have risen to such a big number," said Riad.
Riad cited former Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawi as saying that "the government could not disrupt the sit-ins during the holy month of Ramdan or the post-Ramadan feast."
He said the committee had a lot of video films, taken by citizens living around Rabaa Square, that clearly show that the Brotherhood sit-ins included groups of armed militias. "This led security forces to resort to force after their appeals for protesters to leave peacefully went to no avail," Riad said, explaining that "At around 6pm (14 August 2013) security forces opted to storm Rabaa Square, impose its control on the main mosque there and allow the remaining protesters to leave peacefully at 8pm."
Riad said in addition to the necessity of stripping political Islam parties of any right to exercise political activities, there is a pressing need for a number of legislative reforms and a cultural revolution. "Egypt still has a lot of 'bombs' and these are about to explode if we do not move fast enough to detonate them," said Riad. "On top of these ... the necessity of reforming religious discourse, promoting tolerance, and helping Coptic Christians restore their churches, which were completely or partially demolished by Islamist elements, not to mention to get rid of [Islamists'] reactionary culture."
According to Riad, runaway growth of population in Egypt is the biggest "bomb" facing the country. "It is high time to face this bomb, because it stands behind poor education, intolerant culture and poor development," said Riad.
Responding to a question on why the Muslim Brotherhood refused to testify before the committee, Riad said: "In spite of their rejection, we were able to listen to the testimony of one leading Brotherhood official, his wife and son, not to mention that several female leaders of the group also came to give their testimony."
Riad said Brotherhood leaders alleged that the army used airstrikes to kill protesters in Rabaa, but they were not able to give any proof of this. "Citizens living in the area completely denied that any airstrikes were mounted against the protesters."
Answering another question by Safwat Al-Biadi, an Anglican bishop, on the report's recommendation that families of Christians who were killed by Islamist terrorists during the post-dispersal period receive compensation, Riad said: "This is the responsibility of all Egyptians rather than the government alone." "I urge that a national fund be established to compensate all peaceful protesters who lost their lives during the bloody clashes," said Riad.
The report said as many as 52 churches in 23 governorates were completely or partially destroyed after the dispersals. "These acts of sabotage were mounted after fiery speeches by Muslim Brotherhood leaders incited violence against Christians, their churches and property," the report said.