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In Egypt, Human Rights is Last on the Military Agenda

In Egypt, Human Rights is Last on the Military Agenda
Thu, 10/17/2013 - by Manar Ammar

Four months since popular protests ushered in the military in order to oust Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, civil liberties and human rights seem to be on last thing on the military backed government's agenda.

In the military's attempt to take control of the often violent predicament on the streets, it has broken up two large sit-ins by Morsi's supporters, killing over 400 hundred people at one sit-in in July, sparking tensions that have yet to subside completely. The human rights community decried the use of “disproportionate and unwarranted lethal force" against the protesters.

After receiving a ‘mandate’ from the people to fight 'terrorism,' the security forces are now violating basic human rights, in what is being described as the ‘sake of security.’ While large sections of Egyptians support the military in this fight, the human rights community is being hit hard.

Adding to this tension is the group who galvanized millions by campaigning to remove Morsi, Tamarod, who seems to be in cohorts with the military’s road plan and its terrorism fight.

Tamarod, whose members now play political roles within the transitional government, see security and the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood as priorities, even after a new law was passed that bans protesting for the immediate future. Despite coming to popularity through street movement, Tamarod agreed.

The new draft law was presented by the Ministry of Justice compels citizens who wish to protest must notify the police one day in advance and be near governmental buildings, as well as banning sit-ins and overnight street occupation.

Iman Al Mahdi, spokesperson for Tamarod, told Occupy.com that they are not against protesting, saying "protesting is how we forced two presidents out of power, but the ongoing crisis demands rethinking," she said from Cairo.

"The last few months we saw many more people die during the Brotherhood protests [and] the systematic targeting of the state and citizens by the group, is threatening to push the country in dysfunction," she continued.

"We are against any violations that takes place and we disagree with the government on many issues, but we have tried to do without the security forces, and people cannot live in a scene dominated by violence and terrorism," Mahdi added.

Mahdi was firm in pointing the finger at the Islamic group's actions, saying they take advantage of the violence that has engulfed the country over the past four months. She argued that when Tamarod wanted to make change, they used paper as their weapon, but the Brotherhood, however are deliberately pushing the country into a dark void, for "this so called Morsi legitimacy."

The group’s compliance with the military backed government has put them in a tight position among both the people and the intellectual community. Sources inside the group informed Occupy.com that a number of the original members have left quietly and away from the media's gaze, after some disagreed on the new discourse and direction of the movement.

But the fact remains that thousands have been arrested on suspicion of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, and military trials for civilians are once again becoming the norm, with the arrest of dozens of journalists, the shutting down of opposition television channels and newspapers, as well as the direct influencing of the media surfacing side by side with new police torture and abuse reports.

Sherif Azer, a human rights activist and the Assistant Secretary General of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights wrote that "in an unprecedented moment, we are currently witnessing public support for human rights violations.

“The stereotypical idea that only governments are against human rights has been proven wrong, as the majority of Egyptians reveal their open rejection of the concept of human rights. We have seen people calling for sacrificing their own rights and freedoms, just to see their opposition removed. We, the human rights advocacy community, have been called traitors by friends and family members. People began openly calling for abandoning human rights altogether in the name of fighting ‘terrorism’,” he said in an article on Mada Masr, an independent English language news portal based in Cairo.

Egypt's liberals are also not happy, and for a good reason. Instead of the state self-correcting, it is fostering an environment of paranoia, with scores of Syrians and Palestinians being arrested in the country for suspicion of supporting the Brotherhood, while severely curbing civil liberties and state media reports that the 'fifth column' of rights activists and liberals are next on the security forces agenda.

Loss of civil liberties and grave human rights violations were a massive force behind the January 25 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The day itself used to be commemorated as Police Day, and was chosen by activists in 2011 to highlight the public anger at security forces’ iron grip and cruel methods. But that revolutionary seed could once more sprout at any moment. The revolutionary spirit, while fraught with tension and uncertainty, remains a stalwart mark of the Egyptian spirit.

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