North Africa, West Asia

Re-writing Egypt's unforgettable history

Mina Fayek

The old tactics of governance are back with a vengeance in Egypt, however, the youth have changed and through their embrace of modern day technologies will not sit back and watch this process of historical revisionism and whitewashing.

Mina Fayek
16 August 2014

On 11 August 2014, the authorities barred a Human Rights Watch delegation from entering Egypt and, according to local media, had them deported to New York and Paris. The delegates were going to announce the findings of their yearlong investigation into the mass killings of protesters carried out by security forces last summer. This would have coincided with the first anniversary of the dispersals of the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins, 14 August 2013.

Meanwhile, the 'show trials' of the Mubarak era officials, responsible for years of corruption and the killing of protesters during the January 2011 revolution, are coming to their final stages. Ahmed Ezz, the steel tycoon and the one responsible for orchestrating the rigging of the 2010 parliamentary elections, to mention just a few of his crimes, was released on bail amid reports of negotiations for his return to the management of Dekheila Steel, a company he acquired under the Mubarak regime and through which he has monopolized the steel industry in Egypt.

Habib el-Adly, Mubarak’s Minister of Interior, appeared on television during his trial, and for hours, kept ranting conspiracy theories about what had happened before and during the January 2011 revolution to justify his ministry’s use of torture, the killing of protesters, the collapse of police forces on 28 January 2011 and the prison breaks.

One of his conspiracy theories was about the Two Saints Church bombing in Alexandria on 31 December 2010, where he claimed that those responsible were Egyptians who had joined and been trained by the “Islamic Palestinian Army” in Gaza, and that they did so due to a belief that churches are “temples of infidelity” which have to be destroyed. If this were true, why did this so called “Islamic Palestinian Army” not start by destroying the three “temples of infidelity” of Gaza? This defies belief. Adly also said that some of the victims that night were policemen, an assertion completely denied by the official Coptic Church spokesman. The lawyer of the church said that the ex-Minister’s statements were “far from the truth” and accused the Ministry of Interior of deliberately avoiding completing the investigations and hiding case reports, adding that he intends to take legal action against the ministry. Moreover, the false information Adly has given in this case is an indication of the degree of accuracy, or rather inaccuracy, of his testimonies for all other charges brought against him. 

Ironically, while Adly and other ex-security officials, like the former head of state security, were given an extended period of time to defend themselves, and on air, the 25 January revolutionaries, arrested under the infamous protest law, were sentenced to years in prison in absentia despite being present outside the court at the time of the trial and denied entry by security. In other cases, mass numbers of prisoners were sentenced to death without even having their cases or charges read. As it stands, while these judges hand harsh sentences to activists and other defendants, in clearly flawed processes, the judges of Mubarak’s men are passionately interacting with the defendants, sometimes even smiling or crying - a clear indication of the trustworthiness of the Egyptian judiciary and justice system.

For nearly a year now, media outlets have been dedicating a lot of their time to conspiracy theorists, who claim that the world is plotting against Egypt. However, Sisi doesn’t seem satisfied with their reporting. Earlier this week, he met with a group of journalists and TV anchors to express his dissatisfaction, clarifying that he wants them to focus more on “accentuating a sense of danger”. While some dangers in the region are truly of concern, preoccupying people with fear is a well-known tactic to prevent them from demanding democracy, freedom or even social and economic rights. On the other hand, Sisi previously urged the youth to participate in the constitutional referendum and the presidential elections, after reports of low turnouts. However, when asked about youth participation in governance, he said that he had “no time to try” experimenting in working with them.

Winston Churchill once said “History is written by the victors”. This has happened in several instances throughout Egypt’s history. Different rulers who ruled autocratically defamed previous rulers and facts of war were rewritten. Egypt’s modern history is not an exception; Nasser’s regime defamed the monarchy (which was not perfect, of course) and Sadat’s regime rewrote the 1973 war to hide the setbacks. Now, the current regime is trying to rewrite events that took place in the last three and half years. However, they may be unaware that Churchill’s theory is no longer valid.

While the state uses conventional methods, like newspapers, the television and educational curriculums, to assert its version of events, the youth who started this revolution use the Internet and social media to counter that. As soon as Mubarak’s men stated their false narratives, activists on Twitter and Facebook started to dig up old news about official investigations and fact-finding reports that were conducted by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and published on different media outlets, including state-run newspapers. These reports, which date right back to just after the January 2011 revolution, held Mubarak’s officials and police chiefs responsible for the corruption and atrocities committed before and during the revolution.

According to the Ministry of Communication the number of Internet users in Egypt has reached 44.5 million in June 2014 with an increase rate of 5.5% from the previous month and a 33.8% increase on the year before. Because more than half of the population use the Internet now, and considering that three out of four Egyptians are under the age of 40, Egypt's future in the long run will be in the hands of the revolutionary youth who through their embrace of technology will prevent historical revisionism and whitewashing. 

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