Egypt: Between Military Coup and a Second Revolution?

On July 10th Franziska Brantner hosted a video-conference together with MEP Ana Gomes (S&D) and the Cairo based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), titled “Egypt: Between Military Coup and a Second Revolution? The New Wave of Protests and the Road Ahead”. The event was organised to shed some light on the dramatic events that have been unfolding in Egypt since the 30th of June.

Among the speakers were Gamal Eid, the Director of ANHRI; Hossam Hendi, one of the founders of the Tamarod (Rebel) Movement, which organised the 30th of June Protests; Ziad Elelaimy, MP for the Egyptian Social Democratic Party in the last Egyptian Parliament before it got dissolved; Priyanka Motaparthy, Cairo-based researcher for Human Rights Watch; and Ziad Abdel Tawab, Deputy Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. In Brussels Dr Nawal Saadawy, a well known Egyptian feminist and activist, also joined the event.


Central to the panel discussion was the debate on whether the ousting of President Mursi and his government was the result of a military coup or not. Some of the speakers described it as “a second revolution supported by the military that had decided to side with the will of the people”. Ziad Elelaimy, from the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and former MP of the Egyptian Parliament before it had been dissolved declared: “What we saw was a popular revolution, millions took to the streets. In 26 governorates people conquered the public squares peacefully, a huge number of Egyptians asked for the continuation of the revolutionary demands after one year of the Muslim Brotherhood being in power.” The speaker of the Tamarod/Rebel movement made the demands of the movement clear: 1) removal of the president (accomplished), 2) formation of a transitional government that represents the entire political spectrum(in process), and 3) amendment of the constitution, which according to the movement had been drafted against the will of the Egyptians. Consecutive to the declaration of a new constitution the Tamarod forsees the calling of new presidential and parliamentary elections. They however emphasised the fact that a new constitution was constitutes the precondition for any further political processes to succeedThe speaker also pointed out that the Tamarod movement “is willing to have a third, fourth and even fifth wave of an Egyptian revolution until the people’s demands are met and freedom is achieved, regardless of who constitutes the ruling body and which countries are supporting it.”


It was stressed at the time that the verdict was still pending and the fragile situation could develop either towards democracy or towards military rule. This was claimed to also depend on how transitional justice was to be handled and whether the current regime would succeed in integrating the Muslim Brotherhood politically or not. In terms of transitional justice major short-comings are still prevalent. Ziad Elelaimy pointed out that in the year Mursi had been in power, 154 individuals had lost their lives during non-violent protests and a further 6500 citizens had been wounded. Since January 2013 up to the 30th June of this year, the number of individuals imprisoned, who had been part of the revolution amounted to 104. Gamal Eid, the director of the ANHRI warned that we should also not close our eyes when it comes to the SCAF and Mubarak period. The SCAF was responsible for the death of 215 people and Mubarak for 841 deaths. Most of these cases are still awaiting justice. In his view there was no alternative to reforming the Ministry of Interior: “The Ministry of Interior needs to come under the rule of law not under the rule of whichever individual is in power”.

The ANHRI is currently also compiling all the violations that happened since the 26th of June 2013. In light of this, Priyanka Motaparthy, a Cairo-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, referred to three main concerns: the first being the reprisal against the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in the form of a throng of arrests and its affect on the FJP, the Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood. Secondly, the violent clashes and deaths, and thirdly, the staggering number of sexual assaults over the last days. She described how over the last days more than 300 arrests warrants had been issued without sufficient time to gather evidence. The headquarter of the FJP, the Muslim Brotherhood party, was sealed off despite the constitutional decree guaranteeing no discrimination based on religion.

In terms of violence, since the 28th June there have been three different types of clashes: clashes between pro-Mursi and anti-Mursi protestors, between pro-Mursi supporters and residents of the neighbourhoods where they are protesting, and between pro-Mursi supporters and the security forces. Several speakers stressed that there needed to be accountability on both sides, not only on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood but also on the side of the security forces, especially after the events of the 8th of July where 51 people had been killed in front of the Presidential Guard. The security forces were accused of using excessive force against Muslim Brothers but at the same time gunshots were also fired by members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Priyanka Motaparthy criticised, those looking into the violent incidents may do fact finding but have no jurisdiction over the military. Therefore there needed to be a panel with the power to ask the military questions, as the accused, not only as informants.

On the third issue, Human Rights Watch counted 91 mob sexual assaults of women in Tahrir Square alone, in four days, including children. Priyanka Motaparthy stressed that sexual assault had to stay on the agenda, not to be shoved aside for a better, more convenient moment. The sexual assaults included groping but also rape with sharp objects, requiring reconstructive surgery. So far the EU has failed to integrate the high prevalence of sexual assaults as one of their main talking points and should start raising it on a high political level. There has to be political will to address it, so far the response of the Egyptian authorities if at all has been ad hoc and piece-meal. The focus has to be on the Ministry of Health in terms of training how to deal with victims and raise the sensitivity and capacity of the police and the judiciary to pursue and prosecute perpetrators, as well as raise general awareness.


Several speakers demanded that the army should withdraw its troops from the streets and should leave the political scene to the different national movements and political parties including the Muslim Brotherhood, those not found guilty for any violence. The first step would then be to build a constitution based on which the parliamentary and the presidential elections can happen, preserving the different social, political and economic rights. However, it was criticised that the constitutional declaration and the recent attacks on media were not a promising start. Especially worrying is that the president will be allowed to issue laws that amend the judiciary law. In addition it was criticised that the process of choosing a prime minister and issuing a constitutional decree was not inclusive and was setting a bad precedence for the future, especially since the established time frame and the proposed process was seen by several speakers as unrealistic and undemocratic. As Ziad Abdel Tawab pointed out: “We are not asking for a theocracy nor a military state but a democracy. We are worried; the only guarantee will be the way the constitution is drafted. But the constitutional declaration shows a marriage between the military and the religious groups. This was the driving force and criticism of the protests of the past two years. There is no stability without an inclusive constitutional process that preserves the dignity and rights of the people.”

Dr Nawal Saadawy, a well known Egyptian feminist and activist, did not make a secret of her support for what she called “a second revolution”. She also pointed to the need for a new constitution: “Our mistake in the last revolution was that we rushed to elections before the constitution had been finished. We need a constitution where everyone is equal, no matter what gender, class, religion. Our last revolution was aborted by the Muslim Brotherhood with the support of the US government. We are not allowing the military or religion or a patriarchal, capitalist government to abort the revolution again.” In response to the question if and how sharia law and a religious society can be reconciled with a constitution that provides for democracy and rights for all, Dr Saadawy pointed out that “most people in Egypt believe in god, god for them is justice, freedom and love and that is why they are against the Muslim Brotherhood. For example in Tunisia, there is no mentioning of sharia law in the constitution. I believe Egypt can have a non-patriarchal, secular constitution that respects human rights, women’s rights and religious rights. “


Ziad Abdel Tawab appealed to the EU and the US not to support specific leaders but rather specific principles no matter who is in power. He emphasised: “You have to understand that internal stability is the only way to ensure security, not the other way around”. He also pointed out that since the Muslim Brotherhood did not want to be part of the process the international community had a role to play: “The Muslim Brotherhood has good connections to Qatar, Turkey and even the US. These countries need to pressure the Muslim Brotherhood to accept being included in the dialogue. We are in a very critical, dangerous phase and under threat of losing what still hold this country together”. Further, it was stated that the EU needed to push for an immediate, total handover of power to civilians. Several speakers also requested the EU to push for an independent investigation of the violence of the last ten days.

In her closing statement MEP Ana Gomes drew parallels to the so-called Carnation Revolution of 1974 in her home country of Portugal. According to her, this had also been a military coup but with tremendous support by the people followed by a transfer of power not allowing anyone to be left outside of the political game, not even the communist party. This is how transition to democracy was achieved.

Franziska Brantner closed by underlining that she hoped Egypt would not end up with a religious or military state and that the constitutional process would turn out better than what had been outlined in the constitutional decree. She also agreed with the speakers that the EU had been too silent in the past: “Ana Gomes and I have been pushing for conditionality for long. Concretely there is a Council Meeting of all the ministers of foreign affairs of the European Union on the 24th of July, which leaves two weeks time. The ministers need to make it clear to Egypt that until then if there is no progress in terms of the transfer of power to civilian rule and human rights that there will be consequences and a clear statement from the EU.”


To listen to the podcast, please click here.


PN Member Franziska Brantner is co-spokesperson for foreign affairs of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and substitute member of the Security and Defence, Budget, and Women's Rights Committees. She is Parliament's standing rapporteur for the Instrument for Stability and has been responsible in her political group for the establishment of the European External Action Service.

PN Member Ana Maria Gomes is a Member of the European Parliament and serves on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Subcommittee on Security and Defense.


Originally published on Franziska Brantners homepage.

Photo by Franziska Brantner's homepage.

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