Questions to my Fellow Egyptians and Remarks to Human Rights Defenders

Did you take part in June 30, 2013 as a form of peaceful pressure to achieve early presidential elections within a democratic process? Or to empower the military establishment and the security apparatus to take power and deviate from the democratic transition?

Was it to support democratic values, rule of law, communal accord and a constitution that guarantees modern civil rights, in opposition to a religious state or a military state? Or were you willing to sacrifice these democratic values, rule of law and communal accord all in order to end the presidency of Mohamed Morsi and overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood?

Was it in order to defend human rights and freedoms after the violations committed before, after and during the Presidential Palace protests and in order to apply a comprehensive transitional justice mechanism that holds the perpetrators to account? Or were you willing to accept/ignore/apply double standards to widespread violations of human rights and freedoms and see a return of systematically repressive practices on the part of the security services, all just to end Morsi’s presidency and overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood?

Was it because you believe in your fundamental right to peaceful protest and peacefully advocate change when the political elite in power and the opposition are unable to achieve it and respond to your demands? Or did you want to exercise one last “safe” peaceful protest in order to overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood and provide “political cover” to empower the military establishment and the security services to take power? Were you willing to accept being banished from the public sphere and driven out of the street and square through legal means (i.e., the Protest Law) and repressive practices (arrests, torture, preventive detention) unless you offer unquestioning support to the new authorities and adopt a false consciousness?

Did you take part in June 30, 2013 in order to reject the sectarian incitement practiced by the Muslim Brotherhood-Salafi religious right, to reject Morsi’s arrogance towards Copts (he never once visited a church) and to reject the abuse of religion in politics and governing affairs? In all these efforts, you believed in variety, diversity, the right to disagree, acceptance of the other and equal rights without discrimination as the fundamental basis of civil harmony. Or did you just reject incitement that comes from the religious right, while remaining indifferent to incitement, extremism, aggression and hatred used to claim a false monopoly on patriotism? Did you drop your defense of variety and diversity and your acceptance of the other when the mouthpieces of the military-security complex started to cast accusations of treason and distort the image of human rights advocates and opponents of the new regime, and impose one view, one voice and one hero?

Was it in the hopes of saving the state from becoming ungovernable? To empower its institutions to cohere through democracy and the rule of law in the face of major internal and regional challenges? To achieve civil peace by ending injustices and violations and holding the perpetrators to account? To start placing the values of diversity, citizenship and social justice at the forefront of society and to overcome the arrogance and insularity of the Brotherhood and its allies, removing them based on communal accord? Or was your only aspiration to overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood and you had no objection if along with it the military establishment and security services took control? Or if the new regime places the nation-state in danger through violations of human rights and freedoms, undermining the rule of law, and engaging in an extensive geography of oppression? Or if it threatens civil peace through an exclusive reliance on security solutions and state violence to contain acts of terrorism? Or if it promotes collective punishment and hatred, while keeping silent on the blood that was shed in breaking up sit-ins and protests?

To the citizens who took part in June 30, 2013: if you responded yes to the former of each set of questions, then you are on the margins right now. Our role is to continue defending democracy, rights and freedoms and to seek restitution for the victims both in prison and on the outside. On the other hand, if you responded yes to the latter of each set of questions, I call on you to reconsider, wake up and try to exercise some self-criticism – if only a little – one year after we made our painful deviation from the democratic transition and the oppression and violations began to pile up.

Remarks to Human Rights Defenders

Yes, one year has passed since June 30, 2013. It has also been one year since July 3, 2013, which put an end to the democratic transition and imposed the dominance of the military establishment and the security apparatus over the government.

One year has passed of repeated violations of human rights and freedoms that saw you facing prosecution, monitoring, arrest and detention. One year of silence by the elite, parties and public figures, whether out of support for the military-security complex, due to their dependency on it for political/economic/financial benefits, or out of fear. Or they remained silent based on a losing bet that the violations would not go beyond the “objects of their hatred” among the leadership and members of the religious right, as if such figures have no human dignity, rights or freedoms, and as if it were not inevitable that repressive practices and violations would pile up and any and all opponents of the regime would be targeted.

It has been one year of excessive force to break up sit-ins and protests without any accountability for the blood that has been shed and without any transitional justice mechanism. One year of security solutions that disregard the rule of law, threaten civil peace and annihilate rights and freedoms. One year since the regime and its allied elites have unleashed shadowy figures to control the media, sell justifications for excessive force. and disregard the rule of law – at times to dehumanize opponents, at other times to promote the fascism of collective punishment and at other times to spread false accusations of treason and collaboration.

One year has passed since politics has been extinguished and the right of citizens to free choice has been rescinded, as they have been banished from the public sphere through repressive laws and through violations of rights and freedoms. One year filled with draconian prison sentences for Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma, Mohamed Adel, Alaa Abdel Fattah, Mahienour al-Massry and Omar Hazeq, in addition to others whose names are not known. One year since the return of the security state.

One year has passed since the public and private media have been imposing a single opinion and a single voice by concealing facts and information, by blocking out other views and other voices or by constricting the spaces available for them and policing those who hold other opinions. For one year, they have engaged in systematic distortion of the human rights agenda by claiming that it is incompatible with the requirements of bread, security and stability, or by claiming that it is incompatible with the goals of defending the strength of the nation-state and the solidity of its institutions and national security.

It has been a year of manufacturing the image of the lone savior coming from the military establishment. A year of reproducing the statements of civil, political and party elites who are “incapable” of running the country and the elite showing this by supporting the “hero,” taking part in the “popular mandate,”  remaining silent about violations and their current frenzy to play the role of “political partisans of the president.” One year of a new, bloody one-man rule where the military-security complex dominates the executive branch, and the latter holds supremacy over both the legislative and judicial branches and all administrative agencies and vital sectors, including public universities.

For one year a volatile public mood has overlooked the repression and violations for a time, only to then reject oppression and injustice at other times. For one year your contact has faltered with many popular sectors that are looking for bread and security and that want you to provide a convincing way of combining these things with rights and freedoms. For one year, means of access to citizens on a daily basis have been cut off. Nevertheless, you have realized that it is necessary to achieve this contact despite the high risks that surround your work, and despite the feelings of despair and frustration that may beset some of you and many of your friends through the ordeal of prison, detention, or arrest.

Yes, one year has passed in this painful fashion. However, you are still in the midst of society and in the midst of life, fighting for your principles to prevail. You are fighting to defend rights and freedoms and confront violations without drawing distinctions between victims, in order to raise people’s awareness that bread, security, stability and a strong nation-state can only be achieved through justice, the rule of law and freedom – not one-man rule. Yes, it has been a difficult year. But you are not alone.

Amr Hamzawy joined the Department of Public Policy and Administration at the American University in Cairo in 2011, where he continues to serve today. He is a former member of parliament, former member of the National Salvation Front, and founder of the Freedom Egypt Party. 

This article originally appeared in Shorouk 

Image: A general view of a protest against former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, in front of the presidential palace in Cairo July 1, 2013. (Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)