March 24, 2019

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  • Op-ed: And the winner is…?

    Near Ittihadiya Presidential Palace, crowds gathered to give Defense Minister Sissi a "mandate" to fight "potential terrorism". (Photo by Hassan Ibrahim)

    BY REHAM BARAKAT Cairo – At midnight last Friday, I could still hear the fireworks exploding outside my window, along with the sound of helicopter engines purring over the Presidential Palace exactly a minute’s walk from my window. It was the day hundreds of thousands of Egyptians across the nation decided to step outside into the streets in what was coined a “protest against potential terrorism” to use the words of Egypt’s Minister of Defense Abdel Fatah El Sissi.

    I refused to join the plodding march to provide the Armed Forces with a metaphorical “mandate” to resist “terrorism” in the country. I just could not put on my sneakers and join even those closest to me in their determined “battle against terrorism” because my conscience would just not allow it.

    If my mind was like a piggy bank that was full of thoughts and ideas, no matter how hard I tried to turn it upside down to change my stance towards that day and what it represents for Egyptians, the coins would just not fall out to give me a different disheveled answer. I suppose you could say I am as stubborn as all those who were ululating, waving at helicopters, holding up flags and posters of the Minister of Defense himself. My stubbornness felt that even if there is the possibility of escalating terrorism in Egypt, I could not provide the Armed Forces a license to combat the problem because they are armed.

    So no, I will not provide a license to kill even if there is supposedly an aggressive and violent enemy lurking in the darkness who is just about to blow his head off in the name of a jihad.

    But that said, it does not mean that I am right, or that I condemn all those who were on the streets. On the contrary. I hold them with the utmost regard that they have a unified goal and the strength to carry it out, especially those who stood in the scorching sun while fasting and dutifully waiting for the call to prayer at sunset before sharing food with their fellow Egyptians. It’s a beautiful image I must admit and one worthy of praise and compassion by anyone who is interested in the emotional aspect to these protests and is not judging those who took the street from an elitist, self-righteous and sarcastic stance which some individuals unfortunately do. To my mind, they seem to be on the lookout for a window of criticism to spew their anger and opinion in a seemingly haughty manner that sometimes merely scratches the surface of things and reveals their high-handed stance towards people around them.

    I too have been accused of being too passive in my stance towards things, that I misunderstood the demands of the Minister of Defense and that I am not empathizing with those who have been killed in the past weeks. It’s a point of view, like anything else and one that should be understood, appreciated and respected similar to the manner in which I would like my opinion to be viewed.

    Similarly, opinions I heard from supporters of Morsi who are completely against the Armed Forces was elation that someone has joined their ranks and agrees with what they believe in, as though it were a lobbying war of numbers and those with the highest numbers of supporters will win.

    Win what? I am not actually sure of, because in the midst of the seeming clarity and polarization in the country there is a lot that is very ambiguous and murky. Forgive me for my negative and cynical thoughts but I cannot help ask the question: What if a terrorist attack did occur and a bomb went off and people died? What then? Does it mean that because massive numbers took to the streets, an all out war of violence can be condoned and accepted? Is that what we want for Egypt? Battling between Egyptians in the name of good Egyptian, bad Egyptian?

    What is going to happen to all the pro-Morsi supporters in Rabaa and Nahda Square? Are they going to be forcefully dispersed out of their space because some of them are armed and can be labeled “terrorists”?

    Additionally, what about the civilians who live around Rabaa Square who have voiced endless complaints about the continuous protests in their neighborhood? Who is going to hear their voices? Whose voice is more important? Theirs, the pro-Morsi supporters or the Armed Forces?

    When Morsi was ousted, I will not deny, I ran into the streets of the Presidential Palace and cheered. I spoke to my neighbors who on any other day I would probably be huffing and puffing about because I could not find a parking space. We all smiled at each other and said “Congratulations, the nightmare is over.” But as I watched the euphoria in the air, as I observed the masses flailing their arms in delight at the helicopters and the cars flying by with flags, I could not wonder how long this mass euphoria would last.

    It didn’t and it hasn’t.

    People have died, on both sides of the spectrum and God knows whether more people will die along the way to some form of peace and acceptance of the fact that Morsi is no longer President. In fact he has already been accused of espionage and I am certain more court cases will be propelled in his direction and fall at his feet.

    Death is not something that should be taken lightly. Just because it has yet to happen to us or those close to us or in the street next door, doesn’t mean that we should take it lightly. Pointing fingers at each other is also not going to solve the fact that people are dying. A soldier is no less than a civilian, who is no less than a woman or a child from either camp. At the end of the day, we are all Egyptians. Cliche, isn’t it? Yes it is, but for some reason we seem to forget that everything that is taking place, everything that people are fighting for or against, everyone who is agreeing or disagreeing, judging or not judging, criticizing or not criticizing is doing it about events in this one nation that is being taken for granted because of differences in opinion. And like all of us, unfortunately I don’t have the solution to please everyone.

    Reham Barakat is a Cairo-based commentator and creative writer.

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