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The 'revolution' continues: Massacres, violence and counting deaths - Daily News Egypt

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The ‘revolution’ continues: Massacres, violence and counting deaths

“So when people ask me how I’m doing… how am I supposed to respond? How am I supposed to feel? What exactly am I supposed to tell them about? About the death that we saw for thirteen consecutive hours? About the day that passed by as if it were a thousand years? About the man …


“So when people ask me how I’m doing… how am I supposed to respond? How am I supposed to feel? What exactly am I supposed to tell them about? About the death that we saw for thirteen consecutive hours? About the day that passed by as if it were a thousand years? About the man whose head exploded from the sniper’s bullets? About how his brain flew out? About his spilt blood, melting and soaking the floor? And the sniper that killed him was right over our heads, me and my friends.”

In the above quote, a nineteen-year-old girl is recalling the massacre she lived though on 14 August 2013, when police and military forces forcibly dispersed two sit-ins in Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda Squares. The forces called them fad qanoony , a “legal dispersal,” and what Human Rights Watch (HRW) called “the most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history”.

The incident was the most brutal of its kind, but it was not the first time the Egyptian state committed a criminal mass killing. Since 25 January, many have occurred including the July sit-in, Maspero, the Cabinet of Ministers, Mohamed Mahmoud, Port Said, Abbaseya, Itahadeya Palace, Rabaa Al-Adaweya, Nahda, Ramses, 6th of October City (and many other that are unknown and disregarded because they are outside of the main cities). All are place names and dates that have been given meaning connected to memories of public displays of mass murder or extreme violence. Bodies have been publicly run over by tanks, thrown into the trash, or set on fire.  These places become symbols and obtain meaning. With each passing massacre, the state killed more people.

In all cases, the state had a monopoly over how to define “Egyptian-ness”, it determined who would be the other, and who was seen as the enemy at each particular moment in time.  As it defines “Egyptian-ness,” the state also defines and determines who is to be hated and loved.

A little child once asked a friend of mine who was covering a protest whether he was “Egyptian or Ikhwan”, because by then, according to the standards set by the state, one could not be both. Those who are othered are thus undeserving of compassion or sympathy; if they have to be killed for the sake of the nation then so be it.  On the other hand people have strong feelings towards the state, which they view as the provider of amn and aman, security and safety. As Talal Asad writes, killing “others” is thus necessary for the security it provides; we are killing the terrorists to keep ourselves safe. In any case, the state constructs an other out of anyone opposed to it. This is also why discourse paints the binary that anyone opposed to the state is constructed as an ikhwan. On the other hand, with the construction of the idea that the nation needs to be “saved”, citizens of the nation are thus readily available to join the army, to kill and be killed, for the sake of the nation.

When Egyptian security forces went into Rabaa Al-Adaweya with armoured personnel carriers (APCs), ground forces, bulldozers, and snipers, police and army personnel, they killed over 1,000 people, by Human Rights Watch’s count. However, many were unfazed by the violence, and claimed that the state only killed “Islamist terrorists” that deserved what they got. In February 2012, the Egyptian Security Forces watched as over 70 Al-Ahly football fans were massacred. This didn’t matter much; they were “football hooligans.” On 9 October 2011, the Egyptian army massacred 28 people in a fifteen minute time span. Again, people did not mind as they saw those that were killed as “Christians conspiring against the state and Islam”, and they deserved it. When the military dispersed the Abbaseya sit-in, people dismissed it saying the protestors were “Hazem Abu Ismail Salafi supporters”.

Social theorists point to several prerequisites for mass killings. They do not merely appear on the scene, but they evolve, in the sense that certain social-structural, political-economic, and cultural and psychological prerequisites are necessary. Mass killings are often preceded by declines in economic conditions, political disorganisations, social upheavals, and so on. They also evolve in terms of the extent of brutality used by the killer, which again is the Egyptian state in most cases.

Likewise, the road to physical violence is often paved through symbolic violence which Pierre Bourdieu defines as “violence which is exercised upon a social agent with his or her complicity.” It comes about, in that sense, when agents take the world for granted, accept and find it natural. Bourdieu calls this “misrecognition.” Symbolic violence is violence that is “misrecognised,” often as something good. Misrecognition and collective denial are prerequisites for mass violence. In a sense, people simply become unresponsive and symbolic violence breeds physical violence.

The general societal acceptance of all the massacres which the state’s security forces committed gave the Ministry of Interior the green light to commit a massacre as large as that of Rabaa Al Adaweya, and as it passed with  more acceptance, the state continued to kill and arrest hundreds more over the past year. Since then, one could barely keep track of how many are killed or arrested with every passing week, especially when it feels as though nothing could be done.

How can one, paralysed in the face of the state’s brutality, break this trend? The first step is to recognise the “misrecognised” symbolic violence, to move beyond binaries and labels, to not become normalised to the numbers, the death, and the arrests – to hold on to one’s humanity, and to document and remember regardless of who the victims may be.

 

Jihad Abaza is a politics reporter for Daily News Egypt. 

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  • Reda Sobky

    The binary here that needs to be moved beyond is the victim/transgressor duality. From many people’s perspective who endured the events of that period one can say that phenomenologically speaking their experience was that the group you represent as victims were the transgressors themselves. If we remove the dualistic structure and restate the proposition we can say that it is a clash of victims and a denial of transgression. After a lifetime of psychological inquiry into this phenomenon, I am reminded of an obscure definition of tragedy in terms of the clash of two fully justified positions by two persons or groups who feel mistreated and a righting a wrong. Each trying to look like the innocent victim but be the serpent under it” as lady Macbeth instructed. The collective perceptions of large groups of people living in Egypt at the time is that the deposed were taking the country to hell in a hand basket. In the meantime your identified victim leadership were busy executing a preplanned strategy and scenario to create mass victimization and executed it to maximum effect like battle field movements to throw humans to be sacrificed so you can be saying what you are saying now. This is a kabuki of the highest order in a bloody suicidal homicidal tragedy in the sense that violence against agents of the state could not be tolerated as that would immediately result in crumbling of the state as you saw in Iraq. Those who kept this girl there and who used her were hoping she would have been a casualty herself so you could even be more self righteous in your presentation. The clash centered around two fundamental versions of Egyptian identity, social organization and the very being in the world and that climactic clash was in great part due to a counterattack strategy by the deposed preplanned and meticulously executed and I would describe your perspective as that of a bit player who is coming in on cue to play a role, that of the avenging verbal angel who is also a truth teller against those who ordered the removal. So your piece then becomes a hit piece for the deposed and puts you and el Jazeera together as part of the same line. I wish you would develop your writing beyond the very dualized, even dichotomized, approach you present in which the deposed and their minions are the victims.

    • Uuta

      I agree. The real tragedy is that the Ikhwaan were giving up their wives and children in a horrible, martyr sacrifice that Allah just may not appreciate as it caused the deaths of unarmed innocents. Then the MB turn around and cry ‘woe is me’ to gain Western support.
      The State could not back down; to do so might have opened up civil war in Egypt. And when a soldier or policeman goes to work, when he puts on his uniform — he is actually putting on a bulls-eye target. There is no army in the world who is going to instruct its soldiers, etc, not to shoot if someone is pointing a gun at him.

      Hamas seems to be doing the same thing with the Palestinians. Horrible and disqusting, yes?

      • Reda Sobky

        Yes, the Palestinian people in Gaza are hostage to both sides and therefore they bear the punishment more than anybody else. As one’s heart goes out to them, I think they are better off without Hamas now, they have become obsolete and Abu Mazin needs to take charge again, not the Qatari five star resort group.

        • rado

          Palestinians are brave, not like you nazi Mubarak remnants.

          • Uuta

            Palestinians ARE brave and so unlike the Hamas dogs who are sacrificing them.

    • rado

      why the military intervened. it was only one year in power. Why. Is not the economy falling now. recession. is not the security deteriorating now. is not this guy supporting israel against palestinians. he massacred thousand of people to come in power. he is a dictator. REVOLUTION continue.

  • Barb

    Very good analyses. Cheers. As bassem Youssef put it, humanity is an island and, “alas, noone lives there anymore.”

  • mary banks

    Reading your article with it’s blatant twisting of truths and misconceptions, muslim brotherhood mandate style, somehow confused me, didn’t you witness nor care for Egyptians that were terrorised by the ikwan, innocent citizens and soldiers killed by ikwan, didn’t your heart bleed for them. It is obvious that your youth, and inexperienced zeal has you totally confused and gulliable. I skimmed thru some of your activites and articles: protesting as a student in AUC, a visit to Palestine escorted by Hamas….need I say more…I hope that with time you will feel for Egypt and Egyptians who are desperatly trying to save there country from becoming an oblivious state like Iraq and Libya, which was bound to happen at the hands of the terrorist muslim brotherhood. Learn to have depth to what is happening around you, make better use of your education, a fresh degree in poli sci doesn’t make you an expert, start truelly caring for your country, instead of rambling on….as a sympathizer of terrorists

    • Hate MB

      Thank you Mary!!!! Well said!

    • rado

      just show a fact when people were terrorized by ikwhan . Mubrak remnants are terrorizing Egyptians everyday. It is clear who you are. Just a member of Mubarak regime. People of Egypt decided by fair election who will lead Egypt: Mursi. He was not in power like Mubarak for more than 30 years. Now should we have another dictator, to stay in power for more than 30 years. The youths of Egypt will not leave that happened. We demand the regime to fall, as it is ILLEGAL.

      • mary banks

        Another confused and lost soul, blinded by religious slogans that are used to brain wash the weak, blinding them from the truth and the true love of fellow man kind and of their country. I hope you’re not a jihadist in the making, save your energy on trying to do good instead of being driven to distruction. On a political front like all regimes I am sure that Mubarak did alot of good aswell as many mistakes, as for Morsi and his fundamentilist islamic clan, the people of Egypt over threw them as they tried to change Egypt and it’s identity and lead the country into a chaotic state like in Iraq, all for the sake of an Islamic calipha….

  • rado

    Sisi = ISIS, dictators are destined to fail. There is no security. There is no job. There is education. Prices of everything are ups, gasoline, bread, meat, everything. Egypt need a leader from its own people, and not a spy, a collaborator of Mossad.

    • Hate MB

      Man your Really Really stupid!! Get the Fuck of this Discussion!!

  • Reda Sobky

    One other observation about the child who asked you “Egyptian or Ikhwan?’, out of the mouths of babes, the child intuitively understands that Egyptians owe their highest loyalty to Egypt while the deposed had and do owe their highest loyalty to their organization including its international setup. Those who saw Egypt ahead of all other loyalties ended up leaving the deposed, those who stayed were the ones who the child was talking about, hard core who were willing to trade in their Egyptianess and replace it with the caliphate delusion in one form or another, an empire based on religion-even the kid gets it why can’t you?

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