The general mood in Egypt is even worse than the one that prevailed after the 1967 defeat. Streets, houses, banks, and people have become easy targets for gangs that move around freely in the midst of endless protests and strikes as well as calls for civil disobedience.
We were hoping that the elected parliament will light a torch that would show us the end of the tunnel, but instead it turned into an oration contest in which MPs compete in showing off their eloquence.
When we took to the streets to rejoice in the ouster of Mubarak, we thought that Egypt was starting a new era where it will regain its dignity and turn into a democracy based on integrity, transparency, and social justice. All this vanished a few days later as the country plunged into a state of chaos that remains prevalent till this moment.
Will the tunnel end with handing over the rule of Egypt to a civilian power and with the army going back to its barracks? If this is the case, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has already set the March 10 for the opening of presidential candidacy registration and this is the best proof that those who claim that there is not a clear time frame are mistaken.
Among those is potential presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who described the military council after the statement it issued last Friday as “stubborn” and “impassive.” He said this even though it was clear that power will be handed over on June 30. So what did protestors, the majority of whom are football Ultras, want when they marched to the Ministry of Defense? The military council’s withdrawal in the current circumstances does not mean that we will get out of the tunnel and live a normal life above the ground.
The army did withdraw in the few days the followed the revolution’s anniversary and we saw the outcome: gangs taking over the streets, armed robberies, screams calling for help, kidnappings in broad daylight, and an entire people turned into potential hostages.
I don’t think that if the military council withdraws tomorrow and a civilian takes over protestors will go back to their homes and jobs. They know very well that the council is not going to stay one day after June 30 and that there is no way the transitional period will be shortened.
Presidential candidates need enough time to get the signatures they need as stipulated in the constitutional declaration and more time for their campaigns as is the case with all democratic countries.
Those who stage protests and call for sit-ins will manage to find everyday a new reason for staying the street and making more demands and they have proved to be a fierce minority that is much more influential than the majority that elected the parliament. What is alarming now is that Tahrir Square is no longer the only place to express anger. The April 6 Youth Movement said more than two months ago that the square is not putting enough pressure on ruling authorities and that they will start devising new ways. They did that when they called for a nation-wide strike. They wanted people to stop work and production so that the entire country will become totally paralyzed. “This will be the beginning of the military council’s end,” said movement spokesperson.
The real danger lies in inciting football Ultras to take part in the sit-in in front of the Ministry of Defense, for they are known for their impulsiveness and foul language. They are also known for their readiness to enter into violent confrontation exactly as the army is known for its readiness to defend its historic headquarters. They wanted to provoke the army and drag in into such confrontations while knowing that they will not be as lenient as police officers who for days tried to defend the Ministry of Interior. The army is not going to respond with stones as the police did, for reaching the operations room in the Ministry of Defense means the fall of Egypt.
The plot is clear. April 6 wants to drag the army into committing violations that could eventually make them stand trial in the International Criminal Court. This would mean the internationalization of riots, chaos, protests, and sit-ins.
Where then is the tunnel taking us?
The writer is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya Net. This article was first published in al-Gomhuria and translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid