Monday, May 23, 2011

Egypt youth say NO to the SCAF

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been in charge of Egypt’s administration for 101 days.

Today, Egypt’s young revolutionaries are calling for Egyptians to fight the army-imposed media blackout of the military. They have called on Egyptians to blog, tweet, and post anything which breaks the silence on the military’s violations of human and civil rights. They are trying to create a united front in an attempt to open the scene to frank discussion of the military, and to stop what they see as the military’s escalating violations.

Hundreds of Egyptians have answered the call. Twitter is bursting with tweets and posts tagged with ‘#NoSCAF’ about the military, its violations, and what should happen next.

Activist Mona Seif, one of the first to call for the ‘NO SCAF’ campaign, tweeted early this morning: “Waking up to an internet flooded with posts exposing #SCAF is just amazing.”

“If the SCAF wants to ‘punish’ us for ‘criticizing the military’ and ‘spreading rumors,’ then they will have to arrest hundreds of netizens,” wrote Egyptian activist Ramy Raoof via Twitter.

Journalist and blogger Mohamed Abdelfattah said, “Today the Egyptian blogosphere sends a message: WE ARE NOT SATISFIED WITH THE MILITARY COUNCIL.” He has also compiled a list of blog posts against the SCAF: as of 2pm, 140 bloggers had written posts against the military council.

“Blog. Tweet. Post. Be Free. Evaluate the #SCAF today. This is being documented,” tweeted Ahmed Abdulhassan.

Indeed, an Al-Jazeera English producer tweeted in the morning that he was compiling an article about today’s campaign. The tweets of Mosa’ab Elshamy are among the tweets he plans to include. Mosa’ab was arrested by the Egyptian army last week and only recently released. His tweets about what he witnessed in custody are poignant, disturbing, and certainly revealing.

Egyptians have entered what is likely to be a long war, of which the fall of the Mubarak regime was only one battle.

It is a war in which the uniforms are ambiguous, observers are constantly switching sides, and the majority of the combatants have no idea what the strategy is, or, indeed, who it is they are fighting.

Many are fighting undefined notions of the “former regime” or the “counter-revolution.”

Among the most ambiguous players on the scene is the Egyptian army. Hailed as saviors by the vast majority of Egyptians when they swept into Cairo on January 28, ending a long 'Day of Rage' of bloody battles between the police and the people, the army was then charged with the country’s administration when former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11.

Immediately some began to wonder if the military – and its Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) – would ever give up power. They wondered if, in fact, the SCAF would attempt to turn a true people’s revolution into a military coup d’état.

The army has now been in power for 101 days. Each day, mistrust has grown between the people and the army.

Stories of human rights abuses by the army are increasing. Citizens are calling out more frequently to end military trials of civilians. And most of Egypt’s young activists are well aware that Egyptian media is forbidden to write anything about the military without permission.

Yesterday, the SCAF released a statement on its Facebook page – created to communicate with the Egyptian people – saying unidentified websites were publishing false information about the army in an attempt to fuel chaos in the country and to divide the army from the people.

(The fact that the army releases all of its communiqués via Facebook is a story in and of itself.)

Egyptians have faced battle after battle in their fight for a secular, democratic country which will offer a better future – a “New Egypt” – for them and their children.

The war did not begin on January 25, 2011.

For many, it began decades earlier. Human rights lawyer Amir Salem participated in Egypt’s student demonstrations in the 1970s, and was arrested in the same Tahrir Square in which, thirty years later, he watched Egyptians gather by the millions to demand freedom. Salem has been arrested nine times but has tirelessly fought for the rights of prisoners, for activists, and was once the lawyer for Ayman Nour.

Prominent opposition figure Ayman Nour first began warning of the dangers of a continued Emergency Law twenty years ago, when he was a law student. As a young parliamentarian ten years later, he dared the Prime Minister to eat a piece of the rock-hard bread distributed to Egypt’s poor during a bread crisis.

Nour is one of millions of Egyptians who suffered under the hand of Hosni Mubarak: he spent four years in the infamous ‘Torah Prison’ for daring to challenge him.

Now, it is Mubarak’s cronies who are behind the bars of Torah Prison: those businessmen, politicians, and ministers who supported a corrupt regime which drained Egypt of its resources and dignity to provide greater and greater opulence to a smaller and smaller portion of the population. Even Mubarak’s sons are imprisoned.

But the battles are becoming increasingly hazy. Who is on what side? What is the so-called “counter-revolution,” who is behind it, and how can Egyptians unite against it? Everyone from young activists to political figureheads to religious leaders have called for Egyptians to unite together against the ‘counter-revolution’ – and then blamed each other of being part of it.