The rise of the Sisists


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One protester holds a poster of Gamal Abdel Nasser side by side with a poster of Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi in a demonstration in Tahrir square delegating the armed forces and the police to fight violence and terrorism on 26 July 2013
Rana Muhammad Taha

It starts with a military general whose membership in the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) constitutes one of the most brutal military regimes Egypt has ever witnessed. The same military general who finds no fault in admitting that the armed forces indeed subjected female protesters – arrested on 9 March (2011) after a peaceful sit-in in Tahrir Sqaure was violently dispersed – to virginity tests to “protect the girls from rape as well as to protect the soldiers and officers from rape accusations”.

Only two years after this controversial confession, the same man, general Abdel Fatah Al Sisi becomes the most popular man in Egypt, proving to be a direct threat to army strongman Gamal Abdel Nasser’s throne. All prince-charming Al Sisi needs to do to mobilise millions to the streets is just call on them to do so. They then answer in packs, giving him “carte blanche” to deal with “terrorism and violence” in whichever way he sees fit, all the while holding his photo close to their hearts.

I’m sure the videos taken by military helicopters of Tahrir Square on 26 July would be a mass of dots distinct only by Al Sisi’s face in the demonstrators’ hands, staring back at the helicopters. Not distinct at all from the videos taken for those at the Rabaa or Nahda sit-ins, apart from the few differences between Mohamed Morsi’ s face and that of Al Sisi, of course.

And the crowds’ love doesn’t just stop at holding those large, sometimes relatively heavy posters, in the midst of the summer July in a Ramadan morning while fasting. You can see the peoples’ love for the “leader” not only in their eyes, but also in their chants and their day-to-day conversations. A veiled mother holding her sons’ hands in Al Bohouth metro station fervently explains to them how Al Sisi has called on the citizens to take to the streets on Friday to delegate him and the police to fight terrorism and violence. The mother narrates this sentimental story with such pride and warmth one would expect a tear to escape her while doing so.

It all gets me to marvel at the evolution of the army’s stance in peoples’ hearts. Mind you, the army was never unpopular among the average Egyptians, not even during that black one-and-a-half year when Al Sisi and his SCAF friends cracked-down with all their might on the basic rights the 25 January revolution erupted to call for. Nevertheless, only a month ago, on 28 June precisely, pro-army chants at Tahrir Square were met with a frown, more or less. You could easily find protesters red-handed as they openly displayed their support for the army’s authoritarian rule, that’s for sure, but still, they were caught “red handed”. Now, it’s a matter done with utter pride. Whenever an army helicopter flies above Tahrir Square, demonstrators must immediately stand up, wave their flags and their Al Sisi posters and hail the army. Anyone who’s not ready to join in the parade is an outcast and possibly even unwelcome in the “freedom square”.

And what unleashed such deep-rooted, great love for the armed forces? One word; Al Sisi. The leader. The lion. Egypt’s protector. Egypt’s savior. The one and only, Al Sisi.

No wonder Egyptians have already begun to walk him in Nasser’s shoes, measure up that sacred military uniform and marvel at how perfectly it fits this age’s “Nasser “.

What both personas have in common, other than their uniform, their passion for chitchat while delivering propagandist speeches and their square faces, is beyond me.

It seems clearer than ever that a Sisist regime/ideology is in the making, and that it shall gain timeless support possibly higher than the Nasserist ideology ever did. Nevertheless, I always stop to wonder at what this ideology might look like. What could possibly be the characteristics people foresee in such a regime which makes them so enthusiastically predict that Al Sisi is the new Nasser?

Here are the basic facts I know about Nasser’s regime:

The good: enforcing social justice, building a modern industrial state almost capable of independently fulfilling the needs of its citizens with minimal imports from abroad, creating unprecedented pan-Arabism and building strong ties with African/Arab neighbouring countries.

The bad: establishing the never ending police state, ruining political life by banning political parties and almost eradicating parliament, cracking down on all forms of basic human rights, savagely suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood in a manner which gave them no room but underground to prosper, and establishing the most misleading, propagandist media the state has ever known; literally a mouthpiece of the military regime.

So far, Al Sisi has shown no signs whatsoever that might suggest he’s walking through Nasser’s positive footsteps. He has, nevertheless, shown a million signs that he’s walking through the “great leader’s” negative footsteps. Nothing screams police state louder than the words of Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim, speaking on Saturday only hours after at least 72 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi were killed in deadly clashes with security forces and residents. Ibrahim’s comments on the “massacre” included words such as “there can be no security apparatus in any state without a political security administration”. No human right rises above that of the right to life, repeatedly challenged through killing and arresting scores when attempting to suppress the expansion of a (possibly armed) sit-in. Calling on people to take to the streets to “delegate the army to fight terrorism” was understood by both pro-Morsi and pro-Army citizens as permission from the people to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood. And if suspending Ramadan programming (the most watched and thus most paid for form of entertainment) for an entire day to indirectly or directly influence peoples’ decision to answer Al Sisi’ s call is not propaganda, I don’ t know what is.

And amid this circus, one can’t exactly tell whether Al Sisi is the one adopting Nasser’s footsteps, or if the people, nostalgic for Nasser’s days, are the ones pushing him through those footsteps. Since history is repeating itself, as the 1952 coup stays on replay and the army gracefully maneuvres eradicating political life amid applause from the people, an orchestrator for this age’s replay must exist. And this age’s people have chosen, and even delegated, Al Sisi.

As a wise man said, just as 26 July 1952 witnessed the nationalisation of the Suez Canal, the pride of the Egyptians since its establishment, 26 July 2013 witnessed the nationalisation of the 25 January revolution, also the pride of the Egyptians since its outbreak and until 30 June, when the much cooler, Brotherhood-free and extra-army 30 June “revolution” replaced it.

And the nationalisation of the revolution, coupled with the army’s monopoly on anything that is “nationalist” both pave the way for the rise of Al Sisi and his clan.

Everybody, clear the way for the Sisists for this is their time.

To read the edited version as it was published at The Majalla, click here

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One thought on “The rise of the Sisists

  1. Pingback: Calm restored to Egypt after dispersing pro-Morsi sit-ins; | reportingonthedetails

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