On March 28, 2011, Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil was arrested for "insulting the army" and "harming public security" on his English-language blog (www.maikelnabil.com) and on his Facebook page (facebook.com/MaikelNabilSanad).
According to an April 6, 2011 report in the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, he has been brought to trial and a verdict was to be issued on April 10. Human rights activists and groups have demanded that the military release Nabil; Human Rights Watch called the arrest a "dangerous precedent at a time when Egypt is trying to distance itself from the abuses of the Mubarak era."
Nabil has denied administering or contributing to the post in question.1One of the posts in the blog is an extensive overview of the Egyptian revolution, with a particularly critical view of the Egyptian military's conduct before, during, and following the revolution. It accuses the military of brutality and even of killing protesters, and of continuing the dictatorial tactics of former president Hosni Mubarak even after his ouster. The post claims that the military only refrained from wide-scale violence during the revolution because it realized it could not suppress the protestors through force. Accordingly, it said, the military adopted a policy of suppression, while allowing the police and pro-Mubarak "thugs" to brutalize the protesters. The article also accuses the military of encouraging and even participating in sectarian violence.
Following are excerpts from the post, in the original English, edited for clarity.2
"Is the Egyptian Army Standing With the Revolution?"
The post opens with the question, "Is the Egyptian army standing beside the revolution?" It proceeds to answer this question in the negative, calling the army's conduct "deceptive" and accusing it of exploiting the revolution for its own interests. The author states that, from his account of the revolution, it will be evident that the military has never sided with the Egyptian people at all.
He writes: "On the 11th of February, 2011, after the president's stepping down speech that was delivered by Omar Suleiman (vice-president of the republic, and the former head of the Egyptian intelligence), many Egyptian powers rushed to declare victory and the end of the revolution... I regret having to say the following,... but the people have the right to know the truth… Some of [those who declared victory] wanted to take advantage of the presence of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to [attain] some political positions, by making deals with the Supreme Council...
"In fact, the revolution has so far managed to get rid of the dictator but not of the dictatorship. A broad sector of [the] Egyptian political elite and rebels share this same vision with me... As I participated in the revolution since day one, I've witnessed the majority of the events.
"In the following study, I will present all the [evidence] and documents which prove that the army did not stand by the people's side, not even once during this revolution, and that the army's conduct was deceptive at all times and [was only aimed at] protecting its own interests..."
Stage One of the Revolution: Prior To Saturday, January 29, 2011
The post has three sections, corresponding to three stages of the revolution: before January 29, 2011, when the Egyptian military increased its presence at Al-Tahrir Square and declared a curfew; from January 29 to February 11, when then-president Hosni Mubarak's resignation was announced; and from February to the present.
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The author states that in the first stage, the military used more force against protestors than has been widely admitted or acknowledged: "The Egyptian revolution started [on] 25 January, 2011, and hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took the streets during the first four days of the revolution. The police forces faced them with brutality and killed more than 500 protestors and injured more than 6,000, in addition to [the] 1,000 missing (who turned out later [to be] behind bars in the Ministry of Interior)..." The post goes on to say that in the first days of the revolution, the military sent "jeeps... to provide live ammunition to the police so [the latter could] start firing again" on protestors, after they had run out of ammunition.
Stage Two: From January 29 To Mubarak's February 11 Resignation Speech
The blog states that, in the second stage, the military "started to change [its] tone with the demonstrators", having realized that it would not succeed in suppressing them by force. It then adopted an approach of "managing the conflict through indirect mechanisms, such as... blockad[ing] the revolutionaries and preventing the demonstrations from leaving Al-Tahrir Square,... the continuous threat of using force,... [and] passive neutrality." The blog explains that "passive neutrality" meant allowing "huge groups of thugs" to flood the streets in support of Hosni Mubarak. The military, it says, turned a blind eye as these thugs attacked protestors, "which resulted in the death of 10 martyrs and the wounding of [more] than 1,500 demonstrator[s]. The army stood passively [by] and let the thugs and snipers attack the revolutionaries. The thugs were also [allowed] to climb the buildings overlooking Al-Tahrir Square [in order] to throw Molotov cocktails on the demonstrators..."
The post accuses further that the military broke into the offices of Amnesty International and of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center for Human Rights, seized documents, arrested some of their leaders, and turned others over "to the thugs to be beaten up!!!" The blog estimates that the military police arrested more than 10,000 protesters in this two-week period, and says that it "tried to invade Al-Tahrir Square more than once... to kick the protestors out."
Stage Three: Following Mubarak's Resignation Speech
The post says that in the stage of the revolution following Hosni Mubarak's resignation, the military harnessed Egypt's media in an attempt to suppress the revolution and circumvent the protestors' demands: "After the [resignation] speech [delivered by Omar Suleiman], the army adopted a media style conveying a message that they [had] joined the revolution, but at the same time they did everything to ensure [the] suppression of the revolution, or at least to guarantee that it [would not] gain any extra privileges." The post adds that following Mubarak's ouster, the military banned cameras from Al-Tahrir Square, gave newspaper editors "clear orders to stop any discussions of Mubarak's wealth," and "exploited its own men working in national newspapers and independent ones [to write articles] polishing and brightening the history of [Supreme] Council members..."
The post says that since Mubarak's ouster, the military has continued "to detain and torture activists who participated in the revolution," and criticizes it for "maintaining repressive institutions," for not canceling the emergency law and the curfew, and for supporting the government of Ahmad Shafiq and other figures "who are [nothing but] an extension of the previous regime." It provides the examples of "Mahmoud Wagdy, a former director of the Prison Service, who has a long history in the torture of detainees" and "Mahmoud Latif, Minister of Petroleum in the new government, who is a member of the corrupted Gas Export Company..."
The post says that military's claim that it supports the revolution is altogether untrue, citing as evidence the case of Major Ahmed 'Ali Shouman, an officer in the Egyptian military who openly sided with the Egyptian people in their revolution and was investigated as a result:
"...Major Ahmed Ali Shouman was investigated because he had joined the revolution!! Ahmed Shouman is an officer in the Egyptian army who decided on February 10th to join the protesters. He turned in his weapon and appeared on Al-Jazeera [TV] verbally attacking Mubarak and Tantawi, accusing the latter of being a part of the corrupt regime... Major Shouman was [brought in] for investigation, but the protesters did not stay silent and started many campaigns to support [him. Ultimately,] the armed forces were forced to [drop] the investigation... If the army believes in the legitimacy of the revolution, why then was Major Shouman [investigated] in the first place?"
In a similar vein, the post accuses the military of maintaining the same governmental system that had been in place under the old regime, and of upholding "the old constitution" rather than drafting a new one, thereby circumventing the revolution's demand for real change: "...Although the revolution [called to abandon] the 1971 constitution, the armed forces rejected the proposal... and insisted on [only] amending [this] constitution, which supports the tyranny over the people. If the army recognizes the revolution, why stick to the old constitution, which was dropped by the revolution?... The committee then [drafted] marginal adjustments, but did not recognize the [demand for a] parliamentary system, and therefore [left] most [of the] power in the hands of [the] president of the republic, [paving] the way... for a new tyrant... Why [has] the committee refused to transfer Egypt's democratic system [to the parliament], and [instead] remained committed to the presidential system?..."
The post also accuses the military of encouraging strife between Egypt's Muslims and Christians by appointing Islamists to official positions and by targeting churches and mosques: "...The first action [the military took that encouraged sectarian strife] was the [appointment] of Tarek Elbeshri to head the commission to amend the [constitution]... Choosing Tarek Elbeshri, who is known for his belonging to the Islamist current, and choosing Sobhi Saleh, [a] member of the Muslim Brotherhood Society – all of [this constitutes] antagonism toward Christians without a logical justification...
"The second action, [which is] the clearer one, was... the assault on a large group of monasteries – the most famous of them is St. Bishoy in Wadi El-Natrun – [on] the 23rd of February 2011... [Military] units [also] demolished [the] Fath Mosque in Alexandria, [on] the dawn of Friday, the 25th of February..."
"The Most Important Question: Why Didn't the Army Shoot the Demonstrators?"
The post concludes by asking why the military refrained from opening fire on the crowds of protestors in Egypt, which, according to the author, is "the most important topic in [his] research." He claims that when protestors set several military vehicles on fire, the military realized that sheer force would not suppress the revolution, and would only work against it:
"Many of Egyptians were afraid that the Egyptian army would use its heavy armament to suppress the revolution, [as per] the bloody example in Libya... So Egyptians considered [the fact that] the army [did not do so as evidence of] a bias towards the people, despite the huge difference between [the two] cases. [However, the fact that] the Egyptian army [did not use] live ammunition against protestors has many logical explanations. I'll try to summarize some of them here:
"...[On] the 28th of January, 2011, [after] the army supplied the police with live ammunition, the protestors burned a armored vehicle and two army jeeps, as well as capturing four tanks. [As a result,] the army realized clearly that using its weapons against the protestors would lead to the loss of [its vehicles and equipment], which [would] fall to the hands of revolutionaries, and would lead to the bias of army men toward citizens and their [refusal to obey] commands. Anyone who [has] followed the Libyan [situation will] notice that this [is] exactly what happened as a result of using army weapons against citizens..."
The post goes on to claim that the U.S. had instructed the Egyptian military not to use any U.S. equipment or vehicles in dealing with the protestors, so as not to tarnish the U.S.'s image: "...There were clear American instructions not to use American weapons during the revolution... because if the American weapons were used to suppress the civilians, that would [give] a bad reputation to the American weapon [industry] and would reduce its sales and profits..."
Finally, the post claims that the military leaders exercised restraint in order to avoid incurring the wrath of the international community, as in the case of Libyan leader Mu'ammar Qadhafi and his associates: "...The Egyptian army knew well the consequences of using weapons against the civilians. [Anyone] following the Libyan situation sees the natural results of using weapons against peaceful demonstrators: [the cases of] Muammar Qadhafi and most of the [other] Libyan [leaders have been] transferred to the International Criminal Court, and international arrest warrants [have been] issued against them; [their] assets and bank accounts abroad [have been seized]; the [U.N.] Security Council [has] issued sanction[s] against the Libyan regime; the preparation for a military intervention is in process... The same scenario would have happened in Egypt if the army had used weapons against demonstrators...
"All of those points [prove] that [using] weapons against demonstrators wasn't even an option [for the military]..."
1 Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 6, 2011.