Week 33: A Few Thoughts. Rabaa

rabaa photo 2

Raba’a el-Adawyia, an Arab girl born in Iraq in a humble background was the fourth born child in her family, so her dad named her Rabaa, or fourth in Arabic. Rabaa was known for her ascetic life and for her Sufi poems.

 In Egypt, there is a mosque named after Raba’a al-Adawyia that is situated in a square in Nasr city, a suburb of Cairo. On June 28, the pro-Morsi supporters picked this square for their sit-in; an encampment that continued for 7 weeks until the Egyptian police ruthlessly end it on Black Wednesday.  The crackdown, understandably, has created a shock wave around the globe. The images of the dead victims (more than 600) have rightly trigged a sense of disgust and outrage.  August 14 will be marked forever as a black, shameful day in the history of Egypt.

 As I wrote last Sunday, the best way to deal with the Islamists’ sit-ins is to ignore them, until the numbers gradually fade. Unfortunately, the current Egyptian leadership has opted for the exact opposite; a bullish response that was not gradual. There were various non-lethal methods that could be tried first; however, all were ignored and ruthlessness was the police and army’s choice. Their ruthless actions (as Iyad El-Baghdadi aptly describe it) effectively whitewashed the Muslim Brotherhood’s obscene, dystopian atmosphere they created inside the sit-ins in which there was a consistent twist of the Islamic faith to serve their political goals, and intensive sectarian rhetoric against the Copts for the “supporting the coup.”

 One the best analyses I read after the carnage was by Brain Whitaker: “Two-and-a-half years after the uprising against the Mubarak regime so many people still hanker after authoritarian solutions.”  He rightly pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood is playing the same cynical game as the military: “They have reverted to playing the role of aggrieved victim—a role in which the military have assisted by providing them with martyrs.” I am glad that these words were written by a Guardian journalist__. If any Egyptian had written something similar, he or she would be accused of siding by the Junta and dehumanizing the Islamists.

 In a piece published in the New York Times, Rick Gladstone gathered the opinions of analysts and experts who have suggested “the ferocity of the attack…had been a deliberate calculation of the military-appointed government to provoke violence from the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies.”

 This theory could indeed be true; however, it has two main flaws. First, it postulates that the police’s brutal methods are almost exclusively reserved to be used against Islamists. This theory ignores the long history of murder and torture that the Junta has committed since Nasser. The angry mobs that defied the central authorities in 1972, 1977, and 1986 were not from the Islamists, yet they all were ruthlessly killed or tortured. The difference today, is the higher numbers and the existence of social media that has spread the gory images of the victims.

 Authoritarianism is an endemic virus that chronically occupies the Egyptian psyche regardless of political or ideological affiliation. There is a question that an apolitical friend from Cairo asked me, and I resisted answering: If Morsi is still in power with a loyal army, and the Tamarod rebels were the occupier of Rabaa, would he leave them alone? Or would he ruthlessly crush them?  I honestly do not want to speculate, but the answer to this question could define the crisis in Egypt. Many in Egypt now have stopped believing that Ballot boxes are a cure for tyranny because, in their eyes, it legalizes authoritarianism, and they prefer an overt autocracy than a covert one.

 There is another problem with the Galdstone piece; it somehow infantilizes Islamists as if they are easily tricked. I find this difficult to believe, especially in view of their 80-year history in politics and more than 60 years of turbulent confrontations with the Junta.  Since late June, the Islamists have refused to take the army’s threats seriously, they dismissed Sissi’s ultimatum, and looked surprised by the coup; later in Rabaa, they dismissed the threat of ending the sit-in and claimed that it was just psychological warfare. There is no explanation to this absurd behavior except an utter underestimation of their enemy that has led to tragic miscalculations.

 The stakes for Egypt are high; many are rightly predicting the return of a dark tyrannical era that will make Mubarak rule look soft and mild.

 I humbly appeal to the Muslim Brotherhood to listen to the voice of reason; defiance and marches may attract the world’s sympathy, but it will neither stop the bloodshed in Egypt nor revert the country back to the democratic path. Syria is a living example of the failure of the international community to stop the on-going bloodshed. Iran is another example of the failure of boycott as a method to stop tyranny.  The United States and the EU could withdraw their aid if they want; however, they must understand that their actions will have minimum impact on the ground, particularly after the Gulf pledged aid. The lack of western leverage in Egypt will only force the country to bed other autocratic regimes.

 The only way to defeat the Junta is to stop playing into their hands; by taking a step back to lick the bleeding wounds, withdraw from the streets, and focus on winning back their other partners in the January 2011 revolution. This may take time; serious reflection on last year’s tragic mistakes is needed and major reforms inside the Brotherhood’s autocratic system is the only way to restore democracy in Egypt. If Rabaa is a symbol, it is certainly not a symbol of defiance or victory as Mr. Erdogan likes to promote, but a symbol of devotion and divine love, two qualities that are truly lacking at the moment. The Islamists are now the underdogs and they need, more than anyone else, to play a smarter game that will restore their credibility in the Egyptian streets.

 Egypt is now bitterly divided; those who are genuine are no longer powerful; however, decision makers, on both sides, may not necessarily be genuine. It is time to remember our revolution and our struggle for freedom, justice, and equality. That is our only salvation. Nonetheless, the burden is not just on the Islamists’ shoulders, non-Islamists must stop cheering the Junta. Demonizing the Islamists will neither uproot them from Egypt nor it will make the conservative public cheer for liberalism. Both sides must grow–up and “wake-up.”  Until this happen, please stop playing the “four” symbol because it is frankly meaningless.

About nervana111

Doctor, blogger and Commentator on Middle East issues. The only practising doctor who write in Middle Eastern politics in UK.
This entry was posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt, June30 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Week 33: A Few Thoughts. Rabaa

  1. beamout says:

    “Please stop playing the “four” symbol because it is frankly meaningless.”

    Really Nervana, are you really saying that the symbol is meaningless?! By saying that it is meaningless, you are effectively and perfidiously saying that all those mowed down in cold blood there were meaningless. How utterly, utterly callous of you.

    Symbols will never be meaningless! Also, you have perhaps unsuspectingly implied that Muslim lives are cheap and ditto effectively meaningless.

    Your “meaningless” meme has transmogrified into a surreptitious attempt at trivializing the brutality of murders of innocent civilians. Almost as if your want to silence the people who honor those who were brutally murdered, by using that particular symbol. To say that they are silly and childish for honoring the victims and should stop using the symbol, so that everything about those murders is put under the carpet and not discussed.

    Definitely, no applause. Lady Gaga is disappointed.

    Best regards


  2. Randa says:

    What about my friend whom they kidnapped during their sit in simply cuz they doubted she was a journalist? She is an HR manager, who lives in Rabaa and happened to need a medicine for her kid. She went to the pharmacy and they got hold on her for hours. What do you want to her? Your article is telling her: Toz feeky. Another guy who died last Friday here in zamalek during MBs random shooting of the buildings. He was in his balcony. What would you like to tell him: they r peaceful protesters and they have the right to protest. Well, u r lying and u r no guardian of democracy in Egypt, cuz we r. We did fight for democracy and we will continue. But our fight does not welcome armed totalitarian protesters.


  3. beamout says:


    Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you. BUT ALAS YOU HAVE NONE!

    You deplore somebody being held for hours and do not deplore thousands being slaughtered in cold blood by bloodthirsty totalitarian regime.

    Journalists on the ground have seen the military giving money to junkies to attack protestors and churches. Yet the people with Morsi banners hold circles around churches protecting them.

    Shame and fie on you for calling that the oppressed are the oppressors! Shame and on you for protecting tyranny and holocaust against the anti coup!

    For your arrogance, you do not deserve a great leader like what Morsi could have been (but your arrogant, fascist elites never allowed him) or the movement such as MB whose only crime is fighting for social justice.

    Egyptian media now are the worst fascists on the planet.

    Toppling Morsi over nothing!!!, the ppl of Egypt have deserved a really nasty tyrant. Not the fake tyrant that Morsi was declared to be.

    Mubarak should return to re-impose true tyranny. That would be the best justice for the useful, gullible, arrogant idiots who toppled MB.


  4. I see a lot of ppl saying the same things that were once said in the opposite direction. So many conspiracy theories that have little relevance to the real problems. I know you feel terrible abt the deaths both ways. Seen you write so. Ppl do get pretty upset. It doesn’t help Egypt that ppl outside the country fill their heads with more untrue rumors either. Tyranny from either the MB or the military is never the answer, but as many us have seen, has played out in two years in Egypt. Over reaching and rule of religion became an immediate problem, but MB refused to do much abt that. Morsi and MB decided it was okay to create tyranny under the guise of religion.

    Military and police seemed to only know force, or not doing anything at all as we seen before elections, and after. Under Morsi, there were plenty of times people, churches and etc. Needed protection, and it didn’t happen. The MB and Ikhwan were seen as two faced in their messages. One in English, one in Arabic – mostly different in their messages. If unity is expected, it wasn’t going to happen under these conditions. Right now in Egypt, no sane person will want to be a permanent leader of any office. I understand why. In the meantime, the chaos in Egypt is only creating more ripe ground for more chaos.

    I want the Egyptian people to succeed, but right now the conflict seems to be growing from the day Hosni M. was removed. (Don’t like the man or his ways) but you see that it has to be not a Islamist solution, or a liberal solution, or a Military solution – it has to be many solutions and the most important one is building a new foundation, and scrapping the old foundation of tyranny, no matter the form. There is so much blaming going on, and it is also not helpful. Blaming other countries (or this person, or that media) at this point, only provides a way for more anger, and misdirection.

    As much as I hate seeing Egyptian people suffer, I know it will take some time to completely rebuild it. My hope is that both the people and those in the position of leadership, find more peaceful ways to do so and soon.

    Peace to Egypt.


  5. beamout says:

    You know, I am not on twitter, but I have to comment on this tweet of yours:

    So what’s next? Mubarak the future presidential candidate of #Egypt?
    lol. lol. lol. and the biggest rolleyes there is!

    News flash who those who are still blind due to the oceans of sarcasm and arrogance in their hearts!!!

    Mubarak never left! And when they release him, he will be automatically reinstated with all this privileges. Ta-Da 🙂

    Vicious campaign against MB has paid off tremendously. I don’t know how many billions he spend to reverse the coup against him, but the orchestration was impeccable. Many pro-coup got rich in backing the oppression and many anti-coup members were martyred. Expect thousands, if not millions celebrating his triumphant return. His hymn will of course be the latest Lady Gaga smash – Applause. The lyrics and the beat are appropriate to the core.

    IN CONCLUSION, despite all his crimes, Egyptians will cry their hearts out for a leader like Morsi to appear, but alas there will be no such leader – you will not be shown that kindness again because of your arrogant hearts. You will have a true tyrant. Because that is THE ONLY thing you deserve until you are humble enough to ditch the arrogance and not laugh when police beat to death naked protestors, whoever they are. Indeed.

    And you dear Nervana are just a sad victim of your self-imposed myopia.

    That said, I wish you all the best, no sarcasm here, even though IMO you are 90 percent off base and unsuspectingly support injustice.

    P.S. I am not Egyptian and I survived a genocide when I was young. It started with the arrogance I see in many Egyptians now. I am 38.

    Happy Mubarak and I do not mean Eid. “The horror! The horror!” Indeed, in the Heart of Darkness you will finally be free……


  6. beamout says:

    #Egypt’s tourism industry, lifeblood of the country’s economy, takes major hit with political unrest: http://apne.ws/16hmMCN -DC Via @AP

    Blame the Egypt’s military for the widespread and systematic genocide against civilians.

    The more I read you blog and tweets, the more I realize how you cosmically unjust you are. If there ever is the day of judgement, you will definitely be sorry for implying that the victim is the oppressor and for not unequivocally condemning the genocide.

    I see all you pro coup lovers are smaller than the puppy seed now. The biggest courage of hypocritical Mona Eltahawy is to say the f word for Mubarak and the f word for the curfew. The sly foul-mouth knows the limits to which she can take her criticism so that the military goons do not come for her now. You the so call liberals are only liberal at your convenience. You see taqiyya of Muslims but you do not see taqiyya of liberals. How convenient.


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