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This week's window on the Middle East - September 11, 2013

Arab Awakening's columnists offer their weekly perspective on what is happening on the ground in the Middle East. Leading the week, Syria: waiting for the Tomahawk

  • Syria: waiting for the Tomahawk
  • American Cold War foreign policy and the Egyptian military
  • Syria: a moral intervention
  • Three Turkish misconceptions about Morsi
  • Supporting justice in Egypt - is this possible?
  • Syria: waiting for the Tomahawk

    By Rita from Syria

    In Zamalka, a district of eastern Ghouta in Damascus, children surviving last week's chemical attacks play in the ruins of their houses, using shards and fragments of missiles as toys. They wait along with the rest of their extended families for a man to smuggle them out of Syria, away from a district where only a few hundred have chosen to remain. Life was already unbearable before the chemical attack. The street they lived on had been blitzed and shelled on a daily basis as the rubble of concrete debris served as instant mausoleums for whole families. The horrifying attack on August 21 that claimed 1446 documented casualties pushed tens of thousands of eastern Ghouta residents to flee Syria.. Zamalka has become a city of ghosts while the humanitarian disaster of the displaced is no less egregious than suffocation by death. 

    As the world holds its collective breath in anticipation of western military intervention, the children of Zamalka have already lost everything and the prospect of an international response means nothing to them. They are not alone as millions of children have been suffering the same for the last two years.

    In the early phases of the revolution, some Syrians believed that the solution to the conflict was an international intervention to topple the throne of Bashar al-Assad and dismantle his security apparatus. But the red line was passed long ago.

    Syrian preparations for the intervention

    In Mazzeh 86 – a pro-regime neighborhood whose residents are mainly from the coastal mountain region – international intervention is a clear declaration of war. Joining the national defense army – the shabiha by any other name – has become a patriotic national duty more than ever. In am emptied primary school in Mazzeh 86, tens of young girls have left their studies and started military training to join the national defense army. They are excited to carry weapons and fight for Syria. Amina 19 years old said:"I have always watched the army's heroic operations against terrorists and wanted to join it. I want to defend my country and family and this is the least we can do". The mother while hugging her daughter and asking her what she learned today, seems very proud and optimistic: "either living with dignity or martyrdom for the sake of an honourable Syria. It's time to return the favour to our president".

    Such is mobilization in places like Mazzeh 86 and Dahiyyat al-Assad where an Alawi presence is predominant. Other minorities are showing a different kind of mobilization: a return to their home villages.

    Kamal is a Kurdish journalist and one of the few Kurds still living in Mazzeh 86. He told me:"most Kurds here have travelled back to their original villages in north east Syria even though there is no electricity, water supplies or services. Numerous shops on my street are closed and left empty after their owners decided to leave, even though some of them have lived here all their lives. I won't leave Damascus but it has become dangerous to live in Mazzeh 86 where every stranger or non-Alawi is suspected [of being anti-regime]. On top of all this, there are growing fears of a curfew being imposed if any military intervention is to be launched". 

    The Druze are a majority in the district of Jaramana south of Damascus. Yet, hundreds chose to go back to the city of Sweida, their historical stronghold in the south of Syria. Hussam is a teacher, born and raised in Jaramana, who chose to leave in the end for the sake of his wife and son's security: "I'm not afraid for myself but I have a responsibility towards my family. It is much safer for them to stay amongst our relatives until we find out what will happen next".

    For those who are born and bred in Damascus the only thing they can do is move from sensitive military locations into districts further away. Basel is a Damascene dentist whose house faces the military airport of Mazzeh:"I'm moving with my family to my in-law's house in Mashrou'a Dommar. Any bullet aimed at the airport is a threat to hundreds of families who live just across the highway from the Mazzeh airport. I don't even want to start thinking about what a Tomahawk missile would do". 

    Official army preparations for the intervention

    No one believes that the regime will be able to defend itself or its soldiers. The only realistic option it has is to bunker down. There has been a flurry of military activity where battalions have moved into the city centre - garrisoning civilian areas such as Damascus University campus and the city's public sports complex; and continuing to use civilians as human shields  - a common practice on the part of the regime. Detention centres located at security branches and military facilities have been used since the beginning of the revolution. The lives of the many thousands of detainees imprisoned in such locations will almost certainly be at risk if any military attack on these facilities is to take place.

    The absurdity of war continues, with American officials declaring that the attack is not about overthrowing the regime but rather a response to the regime having crossed the ‘red line’. The question remains about the efficacy of this predicted military intervention whose supposed aim is to punish the al-Assad regime for using chemical weapons. This amounts to no more than a slap on the wrist for the regime, which will survive – coming out of the attack with its “anti-imperialist” credentials intact and its narrative of the conflict confirmed. At closer inspection, it seems the only people being punished here are once again ordinary Syrians. The outcome of this slap on the wrist will only serve to embolden the brutality of this regime. The proposed intervention – if it comes to pass – will only be another chapter in the Syrian book of death and displacement. 

    Thousand thanks to Tahir Zaman for editing this piece

    American Cold War foreign policy and the Egyptian military

    By Maged Mandour

    The logic of American support for the Egyptian military and its muted response to the massacres that took place in Cairo on August 14 seems clear enough. It is based on two intertwined arguments. First, the Egyptian military is a staunch American ally, and as the ruling institution in Egypt, its support is necessary for the maintenance of “stability” in the region. Secondly, the conviction that American aid and political support to Egypt are necessary for the preservation of the peace treaty with Israel.

    This double rationale, while partially correct, presents a truncated view of American foreign policy in relation both to the Egyptian military and the wider region. On deeper examination, one must conclude that since the rise of American power, the US has supported anti-progressive forces in the region, actively inhibiting the development of nationalist forces that might clash with the interests of the United States in the Middle East.    

    In order to gain a deeper understanding of American foreign policy, one needs to place it in historical context. The best place to start is Operation Ajax in 1953, when the democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadeqh of Iran was deposed in a military coup orchestrated by the CIA. The Iranian Prime minister was elected on a platform of oil nationalization, which he did, sparking an international crisis that eventually led to his downfall. This was the first American intervention against a democratically-elected government in the third world and unfortunately not the last.  

    Some commentators have argued that Operation Ajax was justifiable as an attempt to curb the nativist policies of the Iranian government which would eventually lead to a communist take-over under Mossadeqh. This American intervention was, it is argued, part of a classic containment strategy.

    In order to substantiate this claim, an analysis of the different players at the time needs to be undertaken. The first player is the National Front led by Mossadeqh; this was the ruling coalition at the time and it consisted of a variety of Iranian political forces ranging from Islamists to liberals. It is worth mentioning that the Iranian communist party, the Tudeh Party, was not part of the National Front and thus not involved in the direct governance of the country.  However, the threat of communist take-over is cited as the main reason for the coup. On the other hand, it seems that mid-level CIA Iran specialists saw no real threat of a communist take-over and little need for a coup. The decision was taken by higher-level officials in the CIA. This view was also supported by Paul Nitze, who was the head of the Policy Planning Staff at the time and who played a large role in drafting the joint Anglo-American proposals in September 1952 and January 1953. He described Mossadeqh as “a well-educated elitist. He had a great contempt for his fellow Iranians and had no inclination whatsoever toward communists”.

    All of the above casts doubt on the thesis that a communist take-over was imminent in Iran instead tending to confirm the notion that the coup was directed against a nationalist government with the aim of returning control of the state to the Shah

    This raises another set of possible reasons for the coup. One can argue that the intervention in Iran was aimed at maintaining the control of the state in the hands of the old élite. The outcome would be the creation of a vassal state that would define its national interests, as well as survival, in terms of its alliance with the United States. Mossadeqh like Lumumba  in Congo, Allende in Chile, and Arbenz Guzman in Guatemala represented a threat to American interests, not because they were leading the way for a communist takeover, but because they represented nationalist forces that wanted to break with dependence on the west and take control of their own resources and development. They threatened American domination in their respective regions.

    Some might argue that the policy of the United States changed as the Cold War came to an end, with the collapse of the USSR. However, one can see a remarkable level of consistency with regards to American foreign policy stretching from the end of the Second World War until today . Look again at the Egyptian military. Aid to the Egyptian military started with the Camp David Accords. At the time it was considered an incentive presented by the United States to Egypt to maintain stability  and peace with Israel and, most importantly, as an incentive to keep Egypt away from the Soviet sphere of influence. But at the end of the Cold War, military aid and political support to the Mubarak regime continued unabated, the rationale of maintaining peace with Israel and regional stability remaining a constant. Throughout the whole period from the Egyptian uprising in 2011, including the massacre of protestors by the military before the presidential elections, the coup that removed President Morsi from power as well as the massacres of August 14, the United States did not take any action that would indicate a change of policy. American support for the Egyptian military has remained steadfast, under the same rationale. But is this logic valid at this stage?

    One can convincingly argue that it is not valid. First, the nature of the current political order in Egypt is not conducive to stability either in the country or the region. As I have argued elsewhere, the nature of the current Egyptian political order is non-hegemonic, highly reliant on coercion rather than consent; this will eventually lead to a clash of class interests between the military and the urban middle class. Egypt will be subject to years of social upheaval and turmoil. Nevertheless, American aid is helping maintain the military’s position of power.

    Second, is the notion of maintaining peace with Israel. American aid and political support for the military ruling caste is no longer necessary for the stability of the Camp David Accords: the accords will not collapse due to withdrawal of American aid. This will not occur for a number of reasons. First, there is a clear strategic superiority of the Israeli military over the Egyptian military, the most obvious of which is the de-militarized nature of Sinai which makes it impossible for the Egyptian military to attack Israel without the knowledge of the latter. The possibility of a surprise attack is ruled out. Second, the lesson of 1967 has not been forgotten by the Egyptian military: the defeat weakened the ruling regime to such an extent that it destroyed the ideological base of the regime, namely Arab nationalism, ushering in a phase of hegemonic disintegration. The current nature of the Egyptian political order dictates that a defeat like that of 1967 would be catastrophic for the military caste. A risk to their power base that none of the elites are willing to take. 

    Why does the United States continue to support the Egyptian military? The answer comes from a number of meetings between Egyptian generals and their American counterparts, which were leaked by Wikileaks. At one meeting, the Egyptian military painted a picture of the Middle East as a highly unstable region fraught with ethnic tensions and possibilities of war. This even included a reference to Libya as a potential enemy of Egypt. The argument emphasized the role of Egypt as a “balancer”, preventing “other parties” from going to war, a role that Egypt claimed that it had successfully maintained for the past 30 years. Emphasis was placed on the defensive nature of Egyptian military doctrine, in that it did not seek to “offend anyone”. The meeting ended with a plea by the Egyptian military to the United States to increase levels of military aid, claiming that “Egypt is worth more than $1.3 billion”.

    Reference was also made to the power imbalance with Israel, but only as a bargaining chip rather than as a real threat, as it was followed by a reference to the 2:3 aid ratio mentioned in the Camp David Accords. This is the ratio of American aid agreed between Egypt, the United States and Israel when signing the Accords. Egypt’s role as a ‘balancer’, it is implied, does not include Israel, given, for example, the emphasis on the defensive nature of its military doctrine which is not intended to offend “anyone”. The use of the word “anyone” can be understood from the context to refer to Israel, the only possible regional threat in terms of military power. This is also inferred from the phrase about preventing “other parties from going to war” and the fact that this role had been successfully fulfilled for the past 30 years. The term “other parties” does not seem to include Israel, as the argument that Egypt was successful in preventing Israel from going to war could not apply to it: the Israeli army launched the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, there were continuous military operations in Gaza and the West Bank during the first and second Intifadas, the invasion of Lebanon in 2006 and Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. Indeed, if Egypt had been aiming to prevent Israel from going to war, it had failed miserably, and any claim to the contrary would be false. The term “other parties” seems to refer to Syria and other radical states. One concludes that the role of the Egyptian military is to act as a tool for the achievement of American policies in the region, by coopting “radical” and nationalist forces that might pose a threat to the interests of the United States, in exchange for military aid and political support.

    How does this impact on the Egyptian Revolution? The Egyptian military, especially its economic empire, is inhibiting the development of an Egyptian national, progressive bourgeoisie that is able to lead the country and form the backbone of a genuinely democratic system. American military aid, has facilitated, although it did not cause, the growth and development of the Egyptian military empire as an independent economic centre heavily penetrating and controlling the state. American political support ensures the flow of loans and financial aid to the Egyptian state. This effectively allows for the further development of the Egyptian rentier state, alleviating the pressure exerted by the Egyptian revolutionary movement and allowing the vast military empire to go untaxed.

    The US continues to follow its Cold War policy of supporting anti-progressive forces and inhibiting the development of progressive, nationalist forces that will break Egypt’s cycle of dependency. The Egyptian revolutionary movement, like Mossadeqh, is a threat to American dominance in the region as it expresses the aspirations of the Egyptian masses who wish to take control from the military elites and regain the regional role that Egypt lost after the Camp David accords.

    Syria: a moral intervention

    By Oguz Alyanak

    A year ago in March, at the Friends of the Syrian People conference in Istanbul, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the international community to undertake a “moral intervention”. He argued that only through such an intervention, where “no other concerns, no other interests [should] interfere,” the international community could ensure that their consciences would prevail.

    Back then, the United States opposed Erdogan’s proposal, possibly fearing that public opposition to yet another war in the Middle East led by the US (with or without a coalition) could lose Barack Obama much-needed swing votes prior to the November 2012 elections, and therefore his second term in the White House.

    After the elections, however, the wind changed direction. Both President Obama and his cabinet’s interest in the Middle East peaked - reaching its climax following the Syrian government’s suspected use of chemical weapons. A week later, based on “firm belief” that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons - thus crossing Barack Obama’s “red line” - Secretary of the State John Kerry declared that “the US had a moral obligation to punish Syria.” A day later, President Obama also described the US role as “moral responsibility.” This emphasis on reinstating morality through military intervention by both presidents is uncanny, and therefore, demands a closer look.

    Creating a moral void

    In a war that has taken over 100,000 lives so far in over two years, around a thousand deaths in one night has brought us into reorienting our positions from spectators of a massacre to participants in it. We woke up to the morning of August 21 with disturbing frames displaying dead bodies wrapped in kafans, white mortuary shrouds, with each body perfectly aligned as in a family portrait, as if the subjects were in expectation of a photo shoot following their slaughter in Syria. These were the “images of death”, later to be followed by videos providing sound to the grief - of lamenting friends and relatives - a “moral obscenity” as John Kerry put it. Each image corrupted us in a strange way while inviting us to do something, and even if it was already too late, to take an action of some sort.

    Since then, the war drums have been beating loudly and firmly, particularly from the American government and supporters of its policy of invasion. An article in The Economist proposed that upon the presentation of the proof (perhaps in a manner not so distant from the 2003 presentation of Colin Powell), and deliverance of an ultimatum (to hand over the chemical arsenal), the American forces had to punish Bashar al Assad. The author of the piece almost shouted at us in an ecstatic voice: “Hit him hard.” The idea behind it seemed to be that with each hit, and each missile, the international community (which, throughout the debates on Syria, is used in an interchangeable manner with the term, “humanity”) would regain its moral stature. Just like seeing Saddam Hussein being hanged, or Muammar Qaddafi beaten up, abused, humiliated and killed, the moment where Bashar al Assad’s death is shared online through amateur footage will be the moment of glory, a vindication of our morality. But where is the morality in that?

    Questioning the morality police

    Thankfully, not everyone shares triumphant remarks uttered in The Economist essay and many similar war cries. We were all taken by the images, but some of us also remember that a moralistic and retaliatory attitude has not helped to solve much in the past, and may well  likewise not solve anything today. The images of the dead in Syria brought to my mind, for example, the images of Guantanamo Bay, of frames displaying bodies mounded into shapeless masses, and reminded me that neither Syrian nor American war is ever clean, and punishment is purely subjective. No doubt using chemical weapons to eliminate civilian masses is a dreadful atrocity; but isn’t it corrupt to judge and punish when you have not only used the same weapons of mass destruction in the past and continue to promote the proliferation of these weapons. It is not much more than troubling that a coalition of the powerful manages to find the higher moral ground every time.

    Turkey, which once promoted a foreign policy that prioritized peace and cooperation with its neighbours, has been drawn further into this corrupt vortex. It is ironic to recall that only four years back, Turkey participated in a joint military drill with Syria, which was not much welcomed by the state of Israel. Today, Turkey and Israel are thinking of walking the same path under the guidance of the United States. At the grassroots level, a similar ambiguity prevails. Unlike the responses to Israeli aggression in the region where thousands would gather following Friday prayers, and condemn Israel and America, the streets of the Turkey that I left are surprisingly silent. Perhaps, it is the fatigue that we suffer from in the post-Gezi world. Or more likely, it is the trauma that the images left us with that boggles our minds and pushes us further into justifying any sort of military intervention in the name of moral rectitude.

    Who will be there to teach us about morality, and to speak of yet another moral intervention when pictures of brutality show up on our screens, this time committed by the coalition of the “morally righteous”? What a moment of glory that will be for our conscientious selves.

    Three Turkish misconceptions about Morsi

    By Ali Gokpinar

    Despite the continuing impasse in Egypt, the country as it was under ousted President Mohammed Morsi needs a fair assessment, particularly because of three misconceptions that have dominated the minds of the Turkish public. Indeed, groups sympathetic to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and pro-Gezi groups have both instrumentalized such arguments to attack each other.

    1. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB or Ikhwan) was innocent vs. the Brotherhood failed to undertake democratic processes and Morsi failed to embrace all Egyptians as a president.

    2. The Egyptian deep state emerged vs. the military reasserted its authority on July 3

    3. The Ikhwanization of Egypt

    Let's start with the first point. The AKP government has staunchly defended the Muslim Brotherhood, arguing that the group was innocent, democratic and that the Egyptian deep state did not allow Morsi to implement reforms. Thousands of Turkish people protested against the massacre in Rabaa Square and we saw Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan weeping live on TV for Asma, the daughter of an Ikhwan leader, Mohamed El-Beltagy, who was killed by the Egyptian military. On the other hand, many pro-Gezi groups hesitated to condemn the coup d'etat orchestrated by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and the subsequent massacre, claiming that the Brotherhood failed to implement democratic processes, excluded others during its rule and victimized the Coptic Christians.

    Well, all these arguments hold some truth, in one way or another, but all are flawed.

    The Muslim Brotherhood was not innocent in terms of its exclusive governance and failure to adopt many democratic processes, though there were some. Morsi's infamous constitutional decree granted him special powers that perhaps even former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak did not have. Although Morsi was compelled to cancel his decree, this incident became a tipping point in the conflict between Morsi and the divided opposition forces. Nevertheless, Ikhwan and Morsi attempted many times to include various political and religious groups in the transition process by either asking representatives to serve on committees or offering them positions in government. According to Egyptian Popular Current movement leader Hamdeen Sabbahi himself, Morsi offered him the vice presidency after coming to power. Thus, this picture proves that political developments were complicated. Morsi alienated some important figures and failed to form alliances with key political leaders and groups.

    Add to that, the Muslim Brotherhood's electoral victories in every office in the country, although the elections were contested at times. Harvard Associate Professor Masoud Tarek's study of elections in Egypt suggests that Ikhwan was good enough to win elections but as a result of their wins, the non-Islamists “lost faith in democracy.” This point is also pertinent to the Turkish context, since the AKP has won all of the elections since 2002 and Erdoğan has been a staunch advocate of electoral democracy. The continued electoral victories of both the AKP and the MB have been puzzling since neither went beyond electoral democracy, although the AKP government has transformed Turkey in the last 10 years. Why do Islamist parties believe in democracy and win elections but not create enough space for inclusive governance?

    Some of the pro-Gezi groups also cite the notion that Morsi failed to serve as the president of all Egyptians and that he attempted to Islamize the country. They suggest that Morsi deserved to be overthrown by SCAF. According to this logic, sectarian attacks on Copts, increasing debates on Sharia and the wide use of Islamic symbols suggest that Morsi wanted Sharia in Egypt. Yet, history teaches us that Islam has increasingly been a reference point for almost any political actor in Egypt. Recall Mubarak's constitutional amendments regulating personal status laws and hisba (those who enforce religious adherence). As Egyptian anthropologist Hussein Ali Agrama observed, Mubarak's Egyptian state allowed more Islamization in the public order but reserved the power to use and regulate to itself. Thus, it is baseless to argue that Morsi attempted to further Islamize Egypt and remove secularism from the country.

    The second claim made by the AKP government and their supporters is that the Egyptian deep state organized the coup d'etat. Some secular columnists and opinion leaders, on the other hand, claim that SCAF reasserted its power on July 3. These assertions are curious because the Brotherhood did not initiate a security sector reform to send the military to its barracks and ensure civilian control over military nor did the military ever accept such a position. Morsi might have judged that Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Fettah al-Sisi would be a better partner when he appointed him than former Defense Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, but obviously SCAF always remained the most powerful decision-maker in Egypt, not only in politics but also on economic matters.

    As for the AKP's deep state claims, one needs not look any further than Egyptian state officials to find the truth. Speaking at an event immediately after Morsi's ouster on July 3, Mona Makram Ebeid, renowned Copt, former member of Egyptian Parliament and also member of the Shura Council until a few months ago, clearly stated that in February 2013 SCAF wanted some important public figures to form a committee to write down the popular demands of the people. This group contacted the Tamarrod movement in April and tried to synchronize their activities. From this perspective, it seems that there was no deep state but rather an obvious coup d'etat developing in broad daylight. Therefore, one can neither argue that the deep state orchestrated the July 3 coup d'etat nor suggest that SCAF reasserted its power in politics.

    Finally, some people in Turkey argue that Egypt was Ikhwanized following the January 25 revolution. Yet this argument is flawed because, although limited, some Muslim Brotherhood members were able to work for the Egyptian state and the Brotherhood did not replace former government workers with MB members. It is true that Morsi attempted to purge some judges, but the judiciary as an institution created a political crisis out of these purges to challenge Morsi. Indeed, it was Morsi's lack of a strategy to purge key officials and police officers who were associated with Mubarak's violent regime that created a fury against him. Recall the popular movements' demands for justice in Egypt and how the January 25 revolution started after the Egyptian police brutally killed Mohamed Khalid Saed in Alexandria.

    Overall, we seriously need to think about how the Egyptian coup d'état and the subsequent massacre in Rabaa were discussed by the Turkish public. Instrumentalization of Egyptian politics for domestic concerns may perhaps have allowed the government to mobilize its supporters, but this also created a paradox, given the oppression and violence used during and after the Gezi protests. Last but not least, shouldn't we truly try to understand Egyptian politics rather than defaulting to competing polarization narratives? How can we do that in a country where there are only two or three experts, if any, on Egyptian politics?


    This article was first published on Today’s Zaman on 10/9/13

    Supporting justice in Egypt - is this possible?

    By Dina El Sharnouby

    Recent political events since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi have precipitated a plethora of fundamental social and political problems. The clashes with the Muslim Brotherhood have left many confused in their call for social justice, democracy, and how to bring about change. Should they reconcile with the Muslim Brotherhood or support the dissolving of both the group and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice party? Given the many deaths and the violence that has spread through our streets, Egyptians have been challenged to work out the meaning of life.

    Egypt is not only torn by its political disagreements but is driven by the underlying demands for "Bread, Freedom and Social Justice", the slogans of the 25th of January revolution. Overwhelmed by so many deaths, political actors and the population at large now wrestle with this important baseline for building a more just Egypt. And in this context, the release of ousted President Hosni Mubarak poses the biggest challenge. The many years of suppression, human rights violations, and the unequal distribution of wealth that united to bring Egyptians onto the streets on January 25th 2011, have hardly been reflected in Mubarak’s brief period of imprisonment.

    The revolution since 2011 has shown that toppling a regime is much easier than building a new one. The simple logic of 2011 is being challenged in 2013 with these events concerning the Muslim Brotherhood. It is becoming hard to define who should be tried first, members of the Muslim Brotherhood who called for violence or those of the Mubarak regime who are the main cause of the very complex dynamics that we are in today. What does it mean to call for justice in this context? If instructions in particular courts of law and justice, media, and even political parties appear to have failed the 25th of January revolution, how can those important demands be raised by the general public?

    The April 6th youth movement chose to remind us of the need to stand by the values of the 25th of January revolution, on Wednesday, August 28, 2013, when they staged a protest in front of the syndicate of journalists to critique the release of Mubarak, calling for him to be tried for the political corruption that he and his regime instigated over many years. But this simple reminder seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Instead some criticized the movement assuming that they were supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, simply because they protested at a time where the streets seem to belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. Even though the movement consciously chose a Wednesday instead of the Friday, to differentiate themselves from the Islamists, it did no good. In 2013, you are either with the Muslim Brotherhood, and take your claims to the streets, or against them, in which case you abjure street protest.

    Is it possible today to stand for universal human rights in Egypt? Can those who do not support the cause of the Muslim Brotherhood be against the use of violence on Egyptian streets? and the many lives that were taken mostly from supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood? Is it possible for political parties, pressure groups, or movements, now at a very critical time, to hold together around a baseline for social justice, fairness and against violence?

    While many disagree with the methods used by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in dissolving the Rabaa' and Al Nahda sit-ins, now a stand for social justice and peacefulness has become harder than it was in 2011. The binaries that have been created in the past few days give little creative opportunity to the general public for the different possibilities of change.

    However, the courage to take to the streets on Wednesday against the release of Hosni Mubarak was at least a reminder by the 6th of April movement not to forget why the revolution started. Even though neither of the strategies of staging a protest nor the demand for fairer trials of Muabarak that the movement used were new or creative, the alternative to the stagnant political space is surely refreshing, with a glimpse of the possibility of dialogue and understanding among the different political actors.

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