Enab Baladi Issue # 78 – Sunday August 18, 2013
We have always argued that the situation in Syria was so unique and that the course of events there was an unmatched exception which would not be repeated in any other Arab country whose people yearn for change. We used to argue that the army which Hafez al-Assad built on sectarian basis was the reason for the barbaric state of non-stop killing which has continued for two and a half years so far. Indeed, scenes of killing and mutilation were more often than not associated with the distinct ‘coastal’ accent which reinforced the conviction held by most Syrian people that the ‘Alawite sect’ was the main popular incubator for the regime and the generator of ‘shabihha’ and death squads wreaking havoc across the country killing and slaughtering people nationwide.
When protests erupted in Egypt against Morsi’s regime, a military coup was staged allegedly to put the situation under control. Politicians and military officials, however, behaved in ways which fly in the face of morality and ethics. President Morsi was imprisoned for made-up ridiculous charges such as ‘communicating with Hamas’. Moreover, Sa’ad al-Katatbi, speaker of the parliament and a number of leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested for ‘inciting terrorism’. In addition, many TV stations and centers affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood were closed.
Then the Egyptian army started threatening to dislodge the sit-ins involving tens of thousands of Egyptians. Up till that point we were still counting on the patriotism of this army, the maker of modern Egypt, which we assumed would never be dragged into bloody confrontation with the protesters. In our eyes it was a patriotic army par excellence representing the interests of the Egyptian people with whom it never clashed throughout its history.
Unfortunately, the unexpected happened and came as a major shock for us all. The Egyptian army killed not a hundred, not two hundred, but more than 2600 protestors and injured thousands according to sources in the Egyptian opposition under the nose of mass media in a tragic scene of horror.
So, there! The Egyptian army was able to kill its own people and defended its acts before the people and through media although it was not built on sectarian basis like Assad’s army. It seems to be the case, though, that inherent in each army in our countries are thugs ready to kill and murder the very people they vowed to protect and defend. Those death squads have been indoctrinated and equipped over decades so as to defend their masters and commanders in ‘the right moment’.
This by no means applies to the Syrian and Egyptian armies exclusively. It extends to Algeria, Iraq, the Sudan and all other Arab states. But the stakes were particularly high with relation to the Egyptian army which has always been seen as a patriotic army whose main mission was to defend its territories against foreign aggression.
We may continue to see this scene repeatedly for some time until we are able to build peoples, and by extension build armies, which consider taking up arms against their own people an unbreakable taboo and find no justification for using force against unarmed civilians. This may mean that we actually need to build a generation which always gives precedence to the interests of its nation and county over its own personal interest. For there is no personal or partisan interest that justifies killing opponents or civilians.
It is not sectarianism that makes the Syrian army continue killing its own people up till now. Rather, sectarianism has been one of the justifications used by this regime to keep killing its people. By the same token, it is not political Islam or terrorism that makes the Egyptian army kill Egyptians en masse. Rather, the real motive is the interests of a certain political and military elite.
Unless we build this ‘genuine interest culture’ which favours the interests of our peoples instead of those of an oligarchy or a certain political grouping, we will continue to witness these extraordinary crimes perpetrated in our countries.
The example of late Syrian president, Adeeb al-Shishakly, comes to mind in such historic moments as he resigned from office as soon as he thought bloodshed would follow if he did not.