While Egypt is at war

Azza Radwan Sedky
Thursday 1 Mar 2018

On 8 February, the Egyptian army spokesperson announced a major offensive, the comprehensive military Operation Sinai 2018, which is aimed at annihilating terrorism in Sinai

Three months ago, following the killing of 16 policemen in an ambush in the Wahat, southwest of Cairo, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi vowed to crack down on terrorism in the country.

The crackdown swept not only across North and Central Sinai, but also the west of the Nile Valley and the Nile Delta.

Since the start of Operation Sinai 2018, dozens of terrorists, mostly from the Daesh affiliate Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, have been killed and over a thousand have been arrested.

Vehicles, storage facilities, trenches, and land mines were destroyed; hideouts jam-packed with ammunition and explosive devices were demolished, and weaponry was confiscated. The total value of what has been destroyed, which amounts to billions, proves that Egypt is fighting nations and not just a group of simplistic and warped extremists.

Simultaneously, the national security level was raised to maximum. In anticipation of emergencies and medical evacuations, hospitals in Sinai in particular, but also as far as Ismailia, were placed on high alert as they implemented emergency measures such as cancelling holidays and calling in extra support.

Schools were closed indefinitely, classes at universities were postponed, and free access into Sinai was restricted as Northern and Central Sinai residents braced themselves for a long haul.

With the earlier flurry of attacks on Egyptian soil and men, Egypt was unequivocally already in a bonafide war – one Egypt had not experienced before. Throughout history, Egypt has fought many wars, against colonialists, occupiers and conquerors, but not a war against terrorism, at least not at this magnitude.

So it was high time for a crackdown to be initiated. We need not list the heinous attacks that warranted such a massive operation, but hundreds of Egyptian men were ambushed and slaughtered. Today, retaliatory measures are finally in full swing.

The severity in tone of the Egyptian army spokesperson in various statements reminded Egyptians of the war days in October 1973, and the determination of the security apparatus to end terrorism once and for all has enveloped Egyptians with a sense of relief and gratitude.

You see, despite the concern and worry, and despite the severity of the ongoing war, Egyptians are going about their lives in a normal fashion. In fact, by just observing Egyptians, one would think Operation Sinai 2018 is not still going strong.

Ironically, those against the current regime also feel safe enough to ignore the war, allowing themselves to focus on hideous but nonetheless perilous matters while trying to convince Egyptians that they are doing what is best for Egypt.

Opposition, in the form of parties and political figures, are calling for boycotting the March presidential election, calling it an "absurdity.”

“We call on our great people to boycott these elections entirely, and to not recognise anything that results from it,” a joint statement said.

While Egypt fights exterior forces, the phrase, “to not recognise anything that results from it,” is extremely dangerous, a phrase that encourages disorder and chaos and manifests the views of an irresponsible camp.

The campaign’s slogan “Stay at home” asks Egyptians to unite against “the tyranny of power.”

A more rational slogan would have asked Egyptians to indeed vote and make their voices heard be it for or against candidates, whatever the outcome may be. Still, the opposition should’ve realized that it is not by smearing the current regime that it forms solidarity; it is by moulding its own effective course.

On 11 February, and as an immediate consequence of Operation Sinai 2018, Al-Qaeda’s Ayman Al-Zawahri released an audio message calling on Egyptians to topple their government and to uproot "the corrupt regime and wage jihad with weapons, money, words and actions, raids and ambushes, strikes and protests."

Though the severity of the latter message is more obvious, both messages call for anarchy. The reality is that the opposition had four whole years to collect its bearings but did little. At face value, the opposition seems united, but it has not established a worthwhile alliance except when attacking the current regime.

Former MP Mohamed Anwar Sadat went further, calling for a peaceful protest march on the presidential palace. Sadat should not kid himself; the term “peaceful,” if associated with a protest, is unknown in this day and age, and his call for a march is proof that the opposition has no solid ground to stand on, but merely wants to rock the boat and cause friction. Imagine if amidst a war on terrorism, a protest breaks loose in Cairo.

Activists too neglect to show their support or empathy. They remain dedicated to their cause: civil rights, which is fundamental, but they should not be blinded from reciprocating the pain, condoning the terror, and sharing Egypt’s moments of victory.

In these trying times, the Egyptian security apparatus must be allowed to focus on one single front: annihilating extremism and terrorism in Sinai. It neither has the stamina nor the will, or even the manpower, to fight half-hearted wannabes who aspire to become presidents without the effort and dedication.

And neither should it pay attention to outspoken social media delinquents who have found a venue for their disgruntlement, or perennial activists that are stuck in a rut called freedom of speech.

In the fierce war Egypt faces today, it needs all Egyptians to create a unified force, but it seems that personal aspirations and vendettas blind some from realising the scope of what Egypt is going through. 

What is comforting about all this is that the majority of Egyptians are taking no notice of such demands and calls altogether, and even consider those who opt to ignore the operations traitors to Egypt. 

I see the current regime as being on a mission: to leave Egypt in a better place by 2022 than it was in 2012. Let the chitchat continue; Egypt is on its way to eliminate terrorism.

The writer is an academic, political analyst, and author of Cairo Rewind: The First Two Years of Egypt's Revolution, 2011-2013.

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