Domestic cohesion, the protest law, national independence and confronting ISIS
Ahmed El-Sayed Al-Naggar, Monday 22 Sep 2014
As Egypt progresses in its political roadmap, it is time to address the fractures created by the disappointing protest law; all the more so amid international and regional developments that demand maximal Egyptian cohesion

Egypt's progress in the post-30 June roadmap is also taking place amid tough regional and international conditions, in light of uncreative chaos and indeed sabotage that requires us to be vigilant in protecting society and the state from this chaos, those behind it, and the tools of terrorism carrying it out.

On the domestic front, a great alliance inside Egypt brought together tens of millions of Egyptians in the revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood. This coalition was composed of dozens of political parties and groups, but the majority of the tens of millions who elevated it to an extraordinary event in the history of humanity were ordinary citizens who are not affiliated with political forces. They came together in rejecting the outcome of Muslim Brotherhood rule in terms of its fanaticism, sectarianism, economic and political failures, and obsession with controlling everything.

These huge masses took to the streets after they were reassured the army and police would protect protestors, which is why most of these gatherings were celebratory and not revolutionaries willing to sacrifice themselves.

Nonetheless, at the heart of these masses there was a power core who revolted against the Muslim Brotherhood since Morsi’s unconstitutional coup in November 2012, until his regime was toppled. This core included those who revolted against the Muslim Brotherhood at the clashes around Itihadiya Presidential Palace in November and December 2012, without the cover of police or army protection. Some were martyred, hundreds were injured, and others were arrested and released later.

This core included citizens — revolutionaries and freedom seekers — whose positions were more pioneering and vanguard than the political elite who submitted to the blackmail of “legitimacy of the ballot box,” even if these claims were made by those who undermined the constitution and committed the vices of arbitrary detention, torture and murder. There was even suspicion of voter fraud. This core was a key mechanism that continuously and systematically worked to confront the regime of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, giving birth to the forces that rebelled against him, disseminating among the masses with the help of many political parties and forces.

The need to revise the protest law

After the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood rule, and in confronting protests of violence and terrorism that the group organised with their supporters, a law was issued to regulate demonstrations. It appeared to regulate the right to protest and prevent this right from being abused to facilitate violence and terrorism. Although existing laws in Egypt could have been exercised as a strong deterrent against anyone who uses violence and terrorism during demonstrations, the idea of regulating the right to peaceful protest in a new law was reasonable. The legislation that passed was disappointing, especially since the authorities that ratified it came to power via peaceful protest by millions of Egyptians. The new law put restrictions on peaceful demonstration and did not regulate this right.

At the time, I wrote about the flaws in the law, most notably Article 10 stating the right of the minister of interior or relevant chief of police to refuse granting a permit for a protest, or relocate it or postpone it, if information suggested the protest would be a security risk. This article transforms peaceful protest from a right practiced by giving notice within certain criteria, into the power of the Ministry of Interior to permit or ban if it is advised the protest will not be peaceful. This is arbitrary and relies on the ministry’s view of the protest, since the law does not obligate it to present any evidence about the information it has received.

Meanwhile, Article 11 regulates the right of the police to disperse a protest if it is not peaceful, without the presence of a neutral party to decide whether the protest is no longer peaceful. Asking a delegate of a judge of temporal matters at the first grade court to referee is up to the relevant chief of police. It would be better if this delegate is present at the start, and he alone decides whether the protest is no longer peaceful and thus that the police have the right to respond according to the law.

Despite one’s position and remarks on the protest law, reality shows it was applied arbitrarily. Reconsolidating the 30 June coalition requires us to address this issue firmly, to calm social and political sentiments by eliminating feelings of revenge, commitment to respecting human rights and freedoms, and justice in all procedures.

It is unreasonable and unacceptable that some key figures of the revolutions against Mubarak and Morsi are in jail, especially since they do not have a single violent or terrorist bone in them. This gives a negative impression that security agencies are once again dominant after the January 25 Revolution by the people against a regime of social and economic injustices, corruption, political tyranny and oppression. This was followed by a massive and unprecedented revolutionary wave on 30 June 2013, which exploded against religious fascism and oppression also. It succeeded because the revolutionary masses who rejected this fascism were in cohesion with state agencies that realised this fascism was aiming to destroy the national state before anything else.

One must respect the principle that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, but there is a real dichotomy in applying the protest law. Protests supporting the revolution against Muslim Brotherhood rule and supporting the resulting roadmap usually take place without permits and are protected, as we saw on 25 January this year. But the law is used against opposition protests, whether or not they turn violent and deserve to be forcefully and violently confronted (even if there was no protest law), or whether they are peaceful and organised by participants in the 2011 and 2013 revolutions who have reservations and objections about the performance of the government. Since the constitution is the supreme law, or dominant one, it supersedes all that precedes it. It protects the right to peaceful protest and contradicts restrictions in the current protest law that need core amendments.

The president has been a model of non-interference in judicial matters, and the judiciary itself has only applied the protest law based on available evidence. But the source is the police, which have a vested interest in piling accusations against those they lawfully arrest. The problem is basically in the law itself. While many political forces agree on this, the president — who dealt with the giant peaceful mass protests with great integrity and esteem by championing them against the regime of the ousted president — is surrounded by strong aspirations to amend the law and grant amnesty to peaceful protestors. This would be part of an effort to reconsolidate the 30 June coalition as the backbone of continuing the roadmap and prevent the evils of corruption, oppression, social injustice and failure pulling Egypt back or obstructing its march towards a future that matches its great civilisational stature and value.

The flood of 30 June and funding development

It is important to note that the masses of non-political citizens who took to the streets and composed the legendary scene of tens of millions of protestors on 30 June and what came afterwards are the same force for construction and development right now. Amidst uncertain times and propaganda, Egyptians flooded to banks to buy Suez Canal investment certificates. While it is true they have economically and fiscally high interest rates, these purchases reflect a high degree of confidence in the project and state, and a genuine desire in building the future. This could be an incentive to hasten construction and funding for projects, whether in the Suez Canal region or any other projects, through public offerings for projects owned by shareholders, or through investment certificates whose revenues are used to fund state-owned projects.

There are many projects in Egypt that need funds and will be a great foundation for economic take-off. These projects are concentrated in the production of mineral ore and quarries in Egypt, agricultural products, fish preparation and canning, creating industries in the fields of petro-chemicals, fertilisers, automobiles, shipping, and others. Selling shares and investment certificates could be the ideal mechanism to fund the construction of these projects.

National independence and the coalition against ISIS

The importance of reconsolidating the 30 June alliance is greater in light of threatening regional and international developments that can also be great opportunities if Egypt deals with these developments from a point of strength, cohesion, and political, economic and social stability.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, then Russian President Boris Yeltsin offered his country on NATO’s table. The Russian military challenge could have shifted to become part of world powers allied with the West, but this would have put an end to the gains of the US military industrial bloc, resulted in a Europe able to protect itself in the absence of a Russian threat, and a decline in the US role there. Accordingly, the US obstructed any possibility of merging Russia into a military alliance with the West, and ties with Russia became tense during the Balkan wars against its allies. It is notable that the NATO commander at the time said that the survival and cohesion of NATO would require focusing on enemies such as radical Islamists. This was similar to inventing enemies to justify the existence of NATO and costly military spending. These religious fanatics were nurtured and strengthened by US and Gulf funds during the Afghan war against the Soviets. After the withdrawal of Soviet forces, they turned to violence and terrorism in their home countries, including Egypt and Algeria in the 1990s. The West, which had sponsored these terrorist groups at some point, did not assist any of the countries that suffered this scourge.

When they got a taste of their own poison after terrorist attacks in France, the US and Britain by radical religious groups which culminated in the 9/11 attacks, the West began to talk about building an international coalition to combat terrorist. This was used as justification for the war on Afghanistan which was followed by the criminal colonialist invasion of Iraq. These events contributed to continued massive US military spending and fed the hungry US military industry.

After the outbreak of revolutions against failed and socially unjust dictatorships in the Arab world, there was a rallying cry for restoring national independence that had be squandered by the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia in particular. This was evident in the great revolutionary wave on 30 June 2013 in Egypt. Confronting these calls for independence, the West launched a counter-attack by supporting radical religious forces and militarising the revolution to strip it of its civil rights and make it powerless in the face of the ruling regime and force it to call for international intervention by US and NATO forces.

This is what happened in Libya where NATO intervened and the country was pushed to the precipice of disintegration by religious radicals who were aided by the West and petro-dollars from the Gulf. The US tried, with the aid of Gulf petro-dollars, to repeat the same model in Syria, but Russian and Chinese vetoes blocked any international cover. It is true that the West was unable to invade Syria, but it paved the way for terrorists of all stripes to destroy a unified Syrian state to the benefit of the Zionist entity.

Among the terrorist forces that were sent to Syria, the Islamic State in Iraq and teh Levant (ISIL) — created by a Jordanian who defected from Al-Qaeda, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi — became prominent. This group would not have entered Syria and dominated over other terrorist groups trying to destroy unity without the generous assistance of petro-dollars and radical Salafist groups in the Gulf region especially. The group used Turkey as a launching pad for its attacks on Syria and Iraq, which means this took place with the approval of the US — or at least without its objection — because Turkey cannot operate independently from the US on this issue.

When a coalition is formed to fight the backward evil force known as ISIL and some key participants in the alliance are the same ones responsible for its financing and growth in the global war of terror against Syria, the goal of such an alliance becomes reasonably suspicious. These suspicions grew when the US said it will carry out air strikes inside Syria in parallel with boosting Gulf funds and arms to the terrorist Al-Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army, which has lost its independence since the start and became a follower of its financiers in the West and Gulf. The hidden goal may be to destroy the strength of the Syrian state and facilitate the victory of terrorist forces that are more aligned with members of the coalition, in order to sabotage and divide Syria.

The unity and strength of Syria is integral to Arab national security and Egypt’s national security especially. Thus, Cairo’s position against terrorism and ISIL criminality, its commitment to the unity of the state of Syria and not allowing a breach of its sovereignty under any pretense of striking terrorist forces, should be strengthened. Syria’s declaration that it is ready to coordinate on strikes by the coalition against ISIL clusters puts participants in the alliance in front of a real choice. If the goal were to genuinely strike ISIL, they would cooperate with Syria on this matter. However, if the goal is to sabotage the state of Syria, facilitate its disintegration and finish what terrorist forces were unable to do, then Syria’s offer will be ignored and coalition forces will carry out a flagrant assault on the state of Syria.

In fact, Egypt itself is the target of terrorist attacks by Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis and other terrorists, and is genuinely and deeply committed and interested in combating terrorism, but receives no real assistance from the West. If the anti-ISIL coalition insists on violating the sovereignty of Syria, Egypt should distance itself from this pact, even if it completely agrees with the goal of fighting ISIL, which has turned against its financiers.