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Gods and generals - Daily News Egypt

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Gods and generals

As I write this article, 30 June has just begun: people are waving Egyptian flags and happily going about their day, Tahrir square is filled to the brim hours before marches are scheduled to begin, and El-Merghany street leading up to the presidential palace is already closed off. On my way to work, I noticed …


As I write this article, 30 June has just begun: people are waving Egyptian flags and happily going about their day, Tahrir square is filled to the brim hours before marches are scheduled to begin, and El-Merghany street leading up to the presidential palace is already closed off.

On my way to work, I noticed that there was no traffic; there were hardly any cars and even fewer pedestrians on the streets. I have heard of parents imprisoning their children at home, lest they join those protesting in the streets.

I imagine that at breakfast tables across the country, each person put forth their opinion on what is to happen today, with many suggesting the army as the ultimate saviour.

As I go through 30 June’s newspapers, many columnists are beseeching the Armed Forces to be wise, and to stand with the people. Some are even calling out Defence Minister Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi to act and protect the country.

Less than two years ago people were afraid that the army was a worse choice than Mubarak. Protesters chanted “down with military rule” at protests in Tahrir and other squares, demanding the beginning of civilian rule. How quickly they have forgotten the virginity tests performed on female protesters arrested by the army, as well as the thousands of civilians subjected to military trials during the Supreme Council of the Armed Force’s (SCAF) rule.

After Morsi assumed the presidency, 136 complaints were filed to the public prosecution against former SCAF Chairman Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, and his deputy Lieutenant Sami Anan.

In November 2011, Amnesty International released a report detailing how the army managed to “crush” the Egyptian revolution, mentioning the Maspero Massacre, in which 28 people were killed when the army went down to disperse a Coptic protest. They also reported that over 12,000 civilians were tried in military courts.

During the cabinet clashes of December 2011, members of the army were filmed hitting, dragging and eventually stripping a female protestor. An iconic image of this incident shows one soldier as he violently stomped on her chest, as if she was a sack of cotton, rather than a human being.

Somehow Egyptians have magically forgotten the series of human rights violations that the army has conducted in the name of “stability” and “productivity,” as well as the many marches and protests that took place, calling for the army to return to its barracks. “This time, it will be different,” they tell me, “the army does not want to rule.”

I do not know where they got this notion from, or if they have any evidence to support this claim, but over the past two and a half years, everyone who has reached power has proven incapable of benefitting the people. Those in power seem to think about everything but the people of Egypt.

Today the people might be successful in toppling another corrupt president, whose first year in power has shown just how miserably he failed  in pushing the country forward; the country is facing ever-worsening economic decline coupled with shortages of supplies.

We have to learn from our mistakes to avoid the same pitfalls of the past. Although the Armed Forces remain as one of the influential powers in Egypt, and at some point, their interests might converge with that of the people, it does not mean that they are the correct choice for leadership; they will not be our saviours.

We have to realise that we are on our own, and that we are the ones who will have to fight for freedom and survival. Everyone else is busy playing gods and generals.

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