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The Ultras revolution | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The April 6th Movement – a youth group in Egypt – recently announced the opening of a branch in the United Arab Emirates. One of its leaders explained that the movement “seeks the involvement of Egyptians living abroad”. However, two days later, the April 6th Movement declared it had disbanded another branch headed by Ibrahim al-Sheikh.

This is a surreal scene; an emerging political group seeks to open branches in neighboring Arab countries, while they do not have legitimate parliamentary representation in their country of origin. What does this mean? There is no doubt that Egypt is currently going through a phase of uncontrolled chaos. The military that ousted Mubarak by force are not being honest with the rest of the citizens about what happened that night, the result of which is that all components, small and large, have claimed to have a role in toppling the former regime.

Whilst the Military Council actually administers the affairs of the state, everyone else is singing the praises of a revolution that uprooted the regime. The truth of the matter is that what happened was no more than a coup against the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and the pillars of his government. It is true that many of those who protested supported this coup, but the successive mass protests, under names such as “Correcting the Path”, have sought to impose genuine revolutionary change within the state, rather than just a coup. In other words, these protests desire a change in the identity and structure of the state (constitutionally and legislatively), not just a change in the personnel controlling the executive authority. The military council has overused the term “revolution”, and has overdone promoting its own policies as steps toward completing the revolution against Mubarak and his men.

What we have witnessed over the past few months in Egypt reveals a conflict between minor and major political components seeking an all-out “revolution” to overturn the ruling system on the one hand, and the Military Council, which accepted the overthrow of Mubarak and his men, but refuses to step down from its position as a key player in the Egyptian political arena, on the other.

The Military Council is the incumbent, legitimate governing body in Egypt. The recent mass attack on the Israeli Embassy revealed to everyone that the Military Council is the one responsible for the sovereignty of the state, rather than the angry crowds and hooligans who filled Tahrir Square, then advanced to besiege the embassy building and the Security Headquarters in Giza. The Military Council subsequently announced the extension of Emergency Law, and increased its jurisdiction to include thieves, bandits, saboteurs and instigators of violence and chaos. There is definitely a need to restore order in a country which is now suffering for a loss of direction, the absence of effective management, and the spread of “revolutionary” radicalism.

Today Egypt is suffering from a marked economic downturn that threatens its financial foundations. Meanwhile, politicized groups becoming increasingly active in Tahrir Square reflects a bleak picture of the conditions in a country where the overwhelming majority of population yearn for stability, the restoration of economic activity, and the establishment of security. The Military Council is responsible for what happened. Had it not pandered to youth activists and tried to appear as the guardian of the revolution, it wouldn’t have had to face Friday’s protest under the slogan “No to Emergency Law”, which, according to its organizers, aimed to prise the revolution away from the Military Council’s grasp.

This volatile situation portends continuing destabilization in Egypt. At a time when the Egyptian government’s revenues have registered a decline, according to the budget of 2011/2012, and the Central Bank of Egypt was forced to borrow from the Gulf countries and request aid from abroad, the unstable situation within continues to threaten further paralysis. This is especially if Tahrir Square is constantly filled with protesters every Friday. Who would want to travel to Egypt for sightseeing or investment opportunities, whilst observing throngs of angry people torching public and private property?

The problem with Egyptian politics – and this is something which could apply to the rest of the Arab countries too – is that it does not call a spade a spade, and does not handle crises and problems with candor. What is prevented the Military Council from recognizing that if it hadn’t been for its intervention in deposing President Mubarak, he wouldn’t have stepped down voluntarily? What prevents the Military Council from stating that if Egypt does not restore its security stability, the economy wheel would come to a standstill and the Egyptian government would be compelled to ask for help and rescue from abroad? What keeps the Military Council from saying that the harassment of Israelis and threats to repeal the Camp David Accords could expose Egypt to economic sanctions and an international blockade? What prevents the Military Council from saying that such a step could cost Egypt billions of dollars in financial aid from the US and European countries, as well as its commercial export privileges?

Some of the Tahrir Square revolutionaries are not concerned with the general welfare of Egypt, or maybe they are unaware of the country’s higher interests. All that they care for is the continuance of the revolutionary atmosphere. At first their demand was for Mubarak to step down. Afterwards, they rode the revolutionary wave, directing it toward the Arab – Israeli conflict at times, and toward confrontations with neighboring countries at other times. They will not stop until they manage to seize power through undemocratic or uncivil means.

It is suffice to say that these groups are skeptical about every reformative proposal or transitional project. They led the political scene under the pretext that the youth are entitled to reap the fruit of change, and be granted the opportunity to rule Egypt, as the April 6th Movement says. For these groups, either they will succeed or Egypt will benefit from their experience in ruling the country. Of course this is an acute case of “revolutionary blindness”. Needless to say, this dogmatic logic produces nothing but autocratic policies. It would be unfortunate to see Egypt move from the (unsuccessful) 1952 youth and pan-national driven experience, to the 2011 youth and revolutionary driven experience, which might end up being even worse in its abuse of civil slogans. This would lead Egypt to once more swallow the same old ideological and arrogant discourse which led the country down the wrong path for more than seven decades.

Those who claim to be democratic and civil do not set fire to the tires of vehicles, or occupy public squares staging indefinite strikes until their demands are met. Democratic and civil solutions come from legitimately elected governments and councils, not from youth groups who ascend the podiums of satellite TV stations and social networking sites. The Military Council has accused some protesters of sabotage, and this is true, whilst a group of protesters countered by questioning the intentions of the Military Council, and that is also true. If the council is genuinely a revolutionary institution, then why doesn’t it quench the revolutionaries’ thirst by making radical changes, starting by addressing the armed forces overall budget and ending with investigating military police officers, as the youth have demanded? Meanwhile, the pillars of the former regime remain in prison, whereas millions of poor Egyptian people, who were neglected under the auspices of all former regimes from Nasser up to Mubarak, and who have lived on the sidelines of economic prosperity, have become homeless and hunger-stricken as working class incomes, tourism revenues and foreign transfers have witnessed a noticeable decline. So what would the millions of poor and marginalized people in Egypt expect from a body of youths who raise revolutionary slogans demanding everything, yet offering no practical or conscious solutions? This is not to mention their inability to accommodate Egypt’s problems as well as its economic and military deficiencies, as a country with international commitments.

For a revolutionary, everything is simple. The solution lies in removing the head of state, his key aides, and changing the country’s policies to identify with the revolutionaries’ radical concepts of the world. But what the zealous youth did not take into account is that they were placing the destiny of their country and the lives of millions of fellow citizens at the mercy of their own revolutionary passions. Haven’t the Tahrir Square youth learnt anything from the experiences that preceded them? Democracy cannot be imposed; it is acquired consensually among citizens of the same country.

Tawfiq al-Hakim said [with regards to the 1952 Revolution]: “I wonder what history will say about the happenings of this revolution. We all know what history said about the era of Khedive Ismail, just because he borrowed tens of millions of pounds to build palaces, which have in any case remained as facilities to be used later on by government bodies and ministries, over a long stretch of time. Khedive Ismail also used this money to construct other things like the opera house, which we have benefited from as a source of artistic and literary enlightenment for many generations. He also spent part of that money on other projects that were described at the time as rash, but what can only be regarded now as aspects of modern civilization, which Khedive Ismail wanted Egypt to acquire and prosper with. But if history has condemned him, should we hope against hope that it acquits us?” (The Return of Consciousness, 1972).

The youth of change have used the slogans of democracy and human rights as an excuse for their actions. These slogans were a justification for bringing chaos in the face of authority, regardless of who was representing that authority, Mubarak or the Military Council. Such a situation shows that the revolution is now in the hands of the “ultras”. The “revolution” has become a revolution against Egypt itself as a state. Yet a revolution must consist of more than just slogans, and history shall spare no one.