When Mubarak stepped down, this was not a voluntarily decision. The power of the people on the streets of Egypt was too strong to withhold - both for him and the military. For, if the army would not have seen that this cannot be won, they would not have agreed to what happened on February 11 - Mubarak resigning and handing over the presidential powers to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces under Marshall Tantawi.
Wham! Before they knew it they were in charge of running the country, and with all due respect to their attempt to make it look in their press conference as if they knew what they were doing, anyone could tell they stepped on slippery ground. The army was not in charge these last 30 years. They did assist Mubarak - yes, but run the country - no.
Now what do you do, when you get such a big assignment and the instruction manual is nowhere to be found? You try to wiggle through by using the techniques you know. That was the problem. Because running a country of 80 million civilians is not quite the same as running a military show. It sometimes seems, the army is the only one that didn't know this. And from the experience of the last three months one has the feeling, the way the Egyptian military is running its show leaves much to be desired. You would have thought that with all the money they've been getting from the U.S. all these years (1.3 billion per anum) some knowledge of how to deal with a crisis without resorting to brutal force would have accumulated. - But then... No, that's another story. Not now.
Now is the time to focus on the SCAF, because this is the day one should worship the military. So let's see how they fared these last 100 days since the dictator was toppled.
1. Arbitrary arrests and military trials of civilians
There is a history of arbitrary arrests of protesters by the military by now that is scary. Scary, because it shows no other behavioral pattern as what could be seen from security forces before Mubarak stepped down. What many after the revolution have already forgotten are the days before Feb 11, when the dictator finally was defeated. In those days from Bloody Wednesday, Feb 2, to the victory on Feb 11 hundreds of protesters were arbitrarily arrested by the military, dragged into the Egyptian Museum and beaten and tortured. Human rights groups, both national and international, cried out about this. But the army kept a lid on it, denied as much as it could and the arrested vanished into military jails, many not ever heard of again to this day! Currently it is estimated that since January 25 more than 7.000 people have been arrested and are somewhere imprisoned. In most cases the families do not know where they are. All this common under Mubarak. But we are talking SCAF here - the "the demands of the people will be met"-SCAF. Then who ever demanded such arrests and imprisonment? No one in Tahrir, so much is certain.
After Mubarak stepped down and handed over power to the Armed Forces, it was clear to see they were in a fix. They obviously wanted it this way, or they would not have played along, but at the same time the revolution that made it possible scared the hell out of them. And so, edgy and nervous as they were, they continued in their line of arrests.
On Feb 26 they arrested unarmed, peaceful protesters at Tahrir at night - among them (see below) the young Amr El Beheiry who is still in prison! - many were beaten, tasered and even sexually abused.
On March 9 it got violent at Tahrir with the army arresting more than 150 people - again dragging them into the Egyptian Museum, beating them heavily for hours, insulting them (N.B.: the army is allowed to insult the people, the other way round is a crime!), even sexually abusing women and finally convicting them in a joke of a military trial held in the kitchen basement of the military compound, where the accused where held.
On April 9 the army once again moved into Tahrir in the middle of the night and - together with thugs ("one hand"!) - tore up tents of protesters, beat protesters, shot hundreds of bullets into the air - and some into protesters (at least two dead) - before arresting 41 protesters and taking them away.
All these arrests were without reason - but for the nervousness of the army - the treatment of those arrested a hideous crime, not to speak of the joke-trials that mocked any judicial standard. For weeks, for months even and up to this day the SCAF has played foul in correcting the mistakes it made in all this time. It is true that in the wake of growing unrest amongst the revolutionaries and seeing another Million-Man-March coming up on May 27 all those arrested on March 9 have finally been set free two days ago - but if you think, now all is well, you are wrong.
What about all those, that are still held in in military prisons no one can access - the estimated more than 7.000? We are talking about people here that have been abducted by the army even already as early as February and still have not surfaced again! Human rights groups and families have searched for them without end but the military is simply refusing to answer questions (as in fact it never is willing to play with open fair cards even at their military trials).
As long as these detainees are not released every promise of the SCAF is void, every action taken to appease is of no value.
Watch this video of families of detained and see what those arbitrarily arrests do to innocent, hard working Egyptians, how families are destroyed and young people's lives torn apart, to know how cruel the SCAF is dealing with its own people - from whom it expects to be respected. Respect for what? For this?
The tragedies of destroying families is continuing to this day. And even 200 that have been released do not alter the fact that thousands still are detained and the SCAF is not letting them go! And when you hear the accounts of those now freed about what they experienced at the hands of the army at military prison, you are shocked. No one in Egypt should be subjected to such humiliating, violating treatment of prisoners! Any army that treats the people like this, insulting the people, calling them names, abusing them, beating them, should be held accountable. It has no place in a free democratic society. Clearly the standards taught in the army all the years that Mubarak ruled were remote of any respect for human rights. Or all these arrests and mistreatments would not be possible.
Therefore it must be clear:
Military trials for civilians must stop!
All detainees in military prison since the revolution
must be freed immediately!
All detainees in military prison since the revolution
must be freed immediately!
The SCAF, whether it likes it or not, will have to get this message and get it quick! Or the fury of the people will not end.
2. Amr El Beheiry
The lack of sound thinking, logic and respect for justice was proven brilliantly by the SCAF in handling the case of Amr El Beheiry, who was arrested on Feb 26 at night at Midan Tahrir. Although - as is proven by many witnesses - Amr was peaceful and unarmed, he was arrested by the military because of possession of weapons. They beat him severely - then had to notice that in fact he was not having any weapons on him. Bruised and battered Amr was released. Bad luck to be victim to such a mistake.
Shortly after his release the protesters decided to leave Tahrir for home. Amr with others got into a car but they did not get far. Still within looking distance of those they had just parted from, the car was suddenly busted by another group of army personnel, the occupants dragged out and arrested. Amr - who clearly had done nothing - again was in the hands of the military.
At the military court - in one of those notorious quick trials that no one was allowed to attend - he was sentenced to 5 years in prison although he had done nothing and no arms existed that he was said to have carried. The testimonial from Prof. Leila Soueif, who had been at Tahrir and had witnessed the abuse against Amr and could prove that he was abducted from the car, had no weapons and not done anything, went into the trash. Because - who at a military trial is remotely interested in the truth? No one.
So the injustice began and has not stopped ever since. While the verdicts against protesters arrested on March 9 were held back and not ratified and those protesters now came free, the verdict against Amr El Beheiry was for unknown reasons ratified in the beginning of this week. That shut the door for him, for now the military could not release him like the others without losing their face.
There is no justification for such an act of injustice as this. If other protesters could be set free that were just as peaceful as Amr El Beheiry, there is no reason in the world why this young man must serve a 5 years sentence! Just so the SCAF can keep its face?
Amr Beheiry has been imprisoned now since Feb 26 - that is three months almost to the day! - and he is still in prison although he is as innocent as the other protesters that have now been released!
SCAF - how long is this unbearable injustice supposed to continue?
Retry Amr El Beheiry
and set him free!
3. Torture, Virginity tests, sexual abuse in prisons
With the arbitrary arrests of peaceful protesters being appalling enough already, the army did not hesitate to make things even worse. Harrowing accounts of torture and even sexual abuse appeared after protesters arrested on March 9 were released from military detention. The Egyptian Museum basically was turned into a dungeon with protesters being chained to walls and fences and beaten ruthlessly for hours by army officers clearly not in their right state of mind. The most gruesome acts were committed against young women who were accused of being whores as they had spent time with male protesters on Tahrir (it is so obvious, why didn't we think of it?). As the young women rejected the accusation, the army decided to "check for themselves", and several young women were forced to undergo "virginity tests" to prove they were no whores. Should the test fail, they were told, it would mean immediate trial for being a whore. As no woman doctor could be found, the "virginity tests" were performed by a male doctor of the army in a room with windows and an open door to the corridor! No privacy was given to the harassed women and their dignity was humiliated at its worst.
The SCAF, confronted with these atrocities, flatly denied them, stating all this was fabricated lies. When the testimonies became too detailed and could not be ignored any longer, the SCAF announced in a statement that it would have the accusations checked. That was almost two months ago.
To this day the SCAF has done nothing to hold those accountable that touched on the dignity of these young women protesters!
Does the SCAF truly respect the Egyptian people? How so?
Protesters that have just recently been released from military detention - both from the arrests of March 9 as of the arrests of protests at the Israel Embassy a week ago - have already testified too of sexual harassment and abuse in prison. Anyone wearing long hair and a beard was denounced a homosexual (for people with a clear mind = human beings, for some in the army = clearly something else) or "faggot", detainees were stripped naked and beaten and abused. This more than two months after the first chilling accounts were made public, giving the SCAF enough time to conduct inquiries into the allegations and ensure that sexual harassment and abuse would not happen again.
The SCAF did nothing. The detainees were left without protection against such atrocities and too suffered badly at the hands of the military staff in the prisons.
If the SCAF wants any form of respect from the people it first has to ensure the respect towards the people! To just ignore the testimonies of those that suffered and refrain from the promised serious inquiries into these allegations is nothing less but a capital failure. More so it does nothing to ensure that this form of violation in the treatment of arrested and detained will not occur again!
Whether the SCAF likes it or not: The mistakes made by the military have to be corrected.
Those responsible for torture and sexual abuse
must be held accountable in court!
As long as this is not happening, the people and the army will never be "one hand"!
4. Freedom of press and expression
That bloggers were arrested in Egypt was not uncommon in the times of Mubarak. Anyone critical and voicing his criticism publicly was in danger of being arrested, quick-tried and locked away. In 2007 it hit Kareem Amer who was sentenced to four years for expressing his opinion - an opinion that was clearly not the one of the Mubarak regime.
After the fall of Mubarak it should have been clear that this would be a thing from a very dark past. But for some odd reasons the SCAF did not get the message from Tahrir and the rest of the country that freedom of expression was a fundamental demand that had to be met.
On March 28 at night the army arrested blogger Maikel Nabil for blogging about the army and documenting the atrocities against peaceful protesters. Two weeks later and against all international appeals and outcries Nabil was sentenced to three years imprisonment with hard labor and a fine of 200 L.E. for "offending the army". No appeal by human rights groups or even the U.S. government - a firm ally of the Egyptian army - could alter this and he was immediately transferred to Tora prison where he is held now in a cell with two criminal convicts under extreme conditions that can only be called appalling.
Human Rights Watch called the sentence "the worst strike against free expression in Egypt since the Mubarak government jailed the first blogger for four years in 2007".
Yet the SCAF finds no fault with this, sending a clear signal that it couldn't care less about freedom of expression in Egypt. Amazing, as it is the same SCAF that put up a Constitutional Referendum to vote on, containing explicitly freedom of expression and opinion. In a press conference with General Mamdouh Shaheen and General Ismail Etman it was pointed out that the Constitutional Interim Declaration that resulted from the referendum prevents arrests or detentions without legal basis and ensures freedom of the press as well as freedom of belief and opinion.
Does the SCAF not read its own declaration? How then fits the arrest and sentencing of a blogger into their own declaration?
Only a few days after Nabil was sentenced, Human Rights Watch exposed a letter by Gen. Etman to the media in Egypt, dated March 22, in which the General - in the name of the SCAF - "advises" the media to not publish anything about the army in any possible printed, audible or visible way without contacting the SCAF and getting its approval first! An appeal, that sadly but expectedly caused immediate anxiety amongst many journalists especially at state run papers and TV, resulting in them not daring to cover any violations of the army against peaceful protesters.
It took not long for the letter to surface physically and it was quickly distributed over the internet. While the SCAF surely was not pleased about this, the Generals at the same time were totally unfazed regarding the content. Gen. Etman declared without a shadow of guilt that the army encouraged critical reporting in the new Egypt - as long as no one "offended the army". Aha.
Presidential candidate and first women ever to run for this post, Buthayna Kamel, a clear minded person known for her critical views under Mubarak, too took the Interim Constitutional Declaration to be valid and in the beginning of May spoke on State TV critical of the army (if you check above there might be a hint of an indication that criticism could be founded). The reaction was astounding. The director of State TV himself called to order the program stopped. The shaken TV presenter announced that the show was being pulled off the air. And Buthayna Kamel was charged with the crime of “insulting the army” and was summoned to appear before the military prosecutor who interrogated her for more than two hours before she was - temporarily - let go.
Let's cite Gen. Etman again: "The Constitutional Interim Declaration prevents arrests or detentions without legal basis and ensures freedom of the press as well as freedom of belief and opinion."
It is fairy tale time again at the SCAF. If there is someone in Egypt who has no clue what freedom of expression means and who cares nothing about freedom of the press - no matter how much it is laid down in an Interim Constitution - it is the SCAF. The paranoia shown by the Generals, who do not even shy away from charging a presidential candidate for expressing critical views on the army, is nothing short of pathetic. For an upcoming democracy however it is fatal.
The SCAF made the people to vote for the Interim Constitution - now it is the job of the SCAF to see it implemented and not violated! Especially not violated by the SCAF itself!
Therefore the demands must read:
Secure Freedom of Expression as guaranteed
in the Interim Constitutional Declaration!
Lift the sentence against blogger Maikel Nabil!
Assure the press that it is free and must not
fear retributions by the army!
If this is not secured, all talk of the SCAF of respecting the will of the people and the Interim Constitution is invalid and can not be taken seriously.
5. Tell the truth - don't fabricate stories.
A clever man once said: "I never trust statistics I haven't forged myself." To a certain degree you could think this was the attitude of the SCAF as well, because they clearly don't trust a truth they haven't fabricated themselves. And fabricate they do with all might.
When peaceful protesters were arrested at Tahrir on Feb 26 the army showed them on State TV shortly afterwards declaring them publicly to be "thugs".
When there was truly no evidence to thuggery from protesters arrested on March 9, the army brought in masses of weapons from its depot, laid them on a table, made protesters stand next to them and took photos to prove the protesters had been armed. Looking at the masses of weapons on the table, the protesters each would have had to drive a lorry across Tahrir to be able to have so many knifes and guns in their possession. (Hint to the army: If you fake, don't overdo it!).
When protesters where run over by the army and real thugs - (remember: "one hand" theory) - on April 9, rounds of ammo were shot to such an extent that one could hardly bear the sound when watching a video the next day, secretly taken from a balcony above Tahrir. Yet when the speaker of the SCAF had to respond to the protests against this, he found the invaluable words: "No shots were fired."
Watch this little jewel and learn what it means if the SCAF says, no shots were fired. (Caution: Please turn down the volume of your speakers or it will blast you away).
The fabrication of stories and the distortion of the truth seems to be a running thing in the SCAF family.
When the blogger Maikel Nabil was sentenced to three years prison with hard labor and a fine on April 10, none of his lawyers were present. For the court had told them and Nabil in the session that day that no verdict was going to be handed down and that the court was adjourned to April 12. When the lawyers arrived at court the next morning on other cases, they had to learn from the papers published there that Nabil had in fact been convicted on the evening of April 10 in his and the absence of all his lawyers. The lawyers protested strongly against this violation of judiciary conduct.
A few days later General Etman, speaker for the SCAF, had to answer questions in a talk show of ON TV. When asked about this violation, Gen. Etman never even flinched. "All lawyers were present when the verdict was handed down", Etman said and repeated it even after talk show host Yosri Fouda got visibly confused, knowing very well, that six independent lawyers had testified to the opposite. But "No shots were fired"-Etman stuck to his story come rain, come shine. Not only the talk show host was stunned at this performance.
It is not, that Gen. Etman is lying. Someone who lies is deliberately not telling you the truth. But that is not what Gen. Etman does. Etman does not not tell you the truth - instead he tells you a fictional story that has nothing to do with reality. He is like a man standing in front of a 10-story brick building waving his arms in excitement and telling you: "The SCAF has made all this into a nature reserve. No buildings, no obstructions. As you can see - only green meadows with butterflies and birds!" You'd look at the man and you wouldn't say he is lying. You would think instead: Get a doctor. Quick. The man needs help. And its urgent!
How someone who actually needs a doctor comes to speak for the SCAF and disclose a reality of meadows with trees and birds - when in fact and clearly for everyone but him to see he is standing in front of a 10-story brick building - is beyond comprehension. And is this not an insult to the intelligence of the army to let someone tell such fiction discrediting the army by this? Is Gen. Etman not in fact "offending the army" with this behavior and should the SCAF not therefore immediately have to be brought in front of the military prosecutor with three years jail sentence at least? - Well, from the logic of the SCAF, yes. To represent the army with such fabricated stories is nothing short of an "insult to the Armed Forces of Egypt".
But more so - and this the SCAF does not understand - it is an insult to the people of Egypt. Because clearly in letting Gen. Etman recount such fictional tales as reality the SCAF sends out the message that it deems the people of Egypt to be stupid enough to buy these stories, stupid enough to believe the tales of green meadows and birds and trees while everyone is in fact standing right in the middle of high-rise buildings. The only one who does not (want?) to see the buildings, is Gen. Etman and the SCAF. The people - take note - see the obstructions clearly. And nothing Gen. Etman can invent, will ever change that.
6. No transparency
The basis of any democratic system is transparency. Anyone in power is in power only by the will of the people. They vote, they decide - it is to them any politician or public servant in the end is accountable. Hey ho. In comes the army, not remotely connected to such frivolous thinking, holding a strong lid on all of its doings - be it in their courts (no public allowed), be it in their compounds (no public allowed), be it in the military controlled areas of the country (any offender goes to jail). Tell them about democratic transparency and all you will get is blank faces.
That too is the problem with the SCAF. They never heard of such things and clearly do not want to either. Transparency to the army is a no-go area and no forces it seems will get these Generals to even contemplate on the matter.
That has serious consequences for those vanishing within their prisons (see above) or - as bad or even worse - getting into serious conflicts with superiors. From the treatment civilian prisoners and detainees are getting at the hand of the army one can only guess what this means for those army officers and soldiers who do not dance to the tune of the SCAF.
Bringing us once more to April 9, when eight army officers in uniform defied the orders of their superiors and openly mingled with the civilian protesters at Tahrir square, openly too even calling for the downfall of General Tantawi.
There can be no doubt about it that this - within an organization as an army - is a serious breach of conduct. However it cannot justify being abducted, removed out of sight for ever, or in the worst case even killed.
When the army - again see above - stormed Tahrir square at night on April 9, they managed to arrest at least four to six of those officers that were hiding amongst the protesters. One even is supposed to have been shot. The arrested were taken away by army police and are supposed to have been tried in military court.
Fact is - they vanished from the sight of the earth. The SCAF does not feel obliged to inform anyone in this country and especially not any civilian (please puke now!) about what exactly happened to these men after they were finally arrested. The SCAF thinks it has no obligation to explain this to anyone - as the army is a state in the state and in their conviction above the law.
If Egypt is to have any real democracy ever, the SCAF will have to learn that it is part of the country and not above it, that it has to abide by the law of the country and not just make its own, that there will soon be a civilian parliament and government chosen by the people of Egypt that will demand answers to questions and will not just sit back and accept that Egyptians are abducted, tried in secrecy, executed perhaps even without anyone knowing.
True - those officers were part of the army and had to be tried in front of military court. But true too - and miserably ignored by the SCAF - these officers were foremost Egyptians. Egyptian citizens with a right to a fair trial, to a defense by their choosing and to transparency of procedures to ensure their life and there safety.
What has become of these officers? Life-sentences? Executions? How is it possible that no one in Egypt outside of the army knows and that the SCAF thinks it has not to account for the lifes of these Egyptian men?
Transparency is badly missing from the SCAF because they were taught by Mubarak that they have only to report to him. Well here is news Marshall Tantawi: The times have changed. Mubarak is gone. The army from now on will be held accountable by the people of Egypt. And without essential transparency the army will face harsh times in the democracy implemented soon. The army is not a state within a state - it is a part of the state and has to bow to the laws of the state it serves. Because yes - the army serves the people. Not the other way round.
What happened to the officers arrested at Tahrir on April 9?
7. Curfew and Emergency law
Emergency law has been part of Egyptians lives for decades, ever since Mubarak decided that he was far more secure if he kept the people at bay at all times. It worked for 30 years, then all hell broke loose.
Now the dictator is toppled and the SCAF took over. This would be an ideal time to lift the curfew - but above all the status of Emergency Law. Yet nothing happens. The SCAF is simply not getting the hang of it, promises, Emergency Law will be lifted "before the parliamentary elections" to be held in September. - and leaves it at that. What, one would like to ask the Generals, do they believe will be different in September than now in May? Lifting the Emergency Law would send a clear signal to the Egyptian people that the end of oppression has truly come to an end. But #noSCAF, you clearly do not have the guts to commit to it really.
Even Syria - not speaking of its hideous crimes - has lifted the Emergency Status. But Egypt doesn't make it. That shows, the SCAF does not trust the people and still wants to control them at all times. Mubarak revisited in uniform.
The curfew too is not lifted. Installed by Ex-President Mubarak in January to curb the protests that he found dangerous to his power-hunger, the SCAF to this day has not found the courage to dispose of it. It merely prolonged or shortened the curfew according to what the army thought necessary, Egyptians are still left with the grotesque situation, that from 2am to 5am they are not allowed to be on the streets of their own country, cannot go out to party, meet friends, come home late from a night out. Egypt, to put it bluntly, does not belong to the Egyptians from 2am to 5am. They are confined to their homes, and only the army and the police are allowed to venture through empty streets claiming them to be their own.
They are not, SCAF. And they never will be. They belong to the people, and a curfew is a violation of their rights the people will no longer accept!
8. Sectarian issues
It is true - the army rebuild the church at Sol Atfih that was attacked and damaged by radical Muslims and the result is stunning, no doubt about it. But the behaviour of the SCAF on this issue is not consistent. Why was Mokattam allowed to happen with 13 people dead? Why where the unbelievable interruptions at Qena for four days allowed to happen - resulting in millions of loss due to the cutting of the railway lines from Luxor to Cairo? Why did the army only turn up at Imbaba when the clashes were already so heavy and the church was burning? Many that were eyewitnesses - activists, journalists, bystanders - testify to the effect that the army came too late and when they came, for far too long just looked on without interfering. Only because of this did it all escalate. The first news on aggressive marching on the church in Imbaba was coming in already in the afternoon. Yet the army only turned up hours later. Any idiot could see this was going to turn violent. The SCAF did not. The bitter conclusion: Only the army does not make it to the church on time!
The army under the guidance of the SCAF, take note. These are no two different entities. It is the SCAF that will have to answer the questions and it is the SCAF that must realize that such actions only fuel the rumors that abound in Egypt: that the army sides with Salafis and actually let's them go ahead with attacks against Copts, that the army in fact is "one hand with Salafis" and not "one hand with the people". This is in no way proven. Yet not taking actions against violent attacks against Copts makes you wonder if there is something to these rumours. It is for the SCAF to prove by their actions that these rumours have no ground.
After all, the rumours did not fall from the sky. They are a result from what people witnessed when the army did not in time intervene and prohibit the attacks on minorities. And the rumours will not go away with yet another tale by Gen. Etman about the beauty of the birds and the bees. These rumours can only be stopped by decisive, consistent action by the SCAF that minorities can truly rely on, by showing clearly by action not words, that the army is willing to protect all Egyptians, of which - as everyone should know - the Copts are an important and valuable part.
16 churches are to be reopened this Wednesday according to the Ministry of the Interior. It will be the litmus test to show if the army is really "one hand" with the people and not with radical fundamentalists like the Salafis, as many think. It is vital that this comes accross, because if the SCAF is not free of this suspicion it will never ever have the trust of the people it says it wants to protect.
The SCAF will deny this rumor right out loud for certain, but words are not enough to calm the fear in many hundred thousands of Egyptians thinking otherwise. Who also have learned from Salafis, that according to their belief any criticism of those in power is an act against God, must be suppressed under all circumstances, must never ever happen and be allowed. Strange as it seems - in this point the SCAF seems to think absolutely along the lines of the Salafis. The SCAF too rejects the right of criticism in the strongest terms and demands instead obeyance from the people. Read it as you want - no matter whether you believe the rumours to be true or not - the attitude of both Salafis and the SCAF smack of anything but fundamental human rights. And isn't it odd that they both have the same failed understanding of democracy? Makes you think.
Summing it up
Summing it up - it does not look too good for the SCAF after 100 days. Ok, there was no instruction manual coming with this revolution. But a lot of the failures could have been avoided by adhering to simple standards of human rights, decency and judicial respect as is customary in civilized countries. The track record of the SCAF on this so far however is horrid.
When the army said: "The demands of the people will be met" - they somehow did not listen even to themselves. They must start now. It is time to listen, SCAF. It is time to deliver. Meet the demands of the people. And you better get going before the anger of the people knows no bounds.