By Ahmed Amr – Cairo
The thrill is gone, the euphoria has faded and our mass delusions have been swept away to make room for the reality that there never was an Egyptian revolution. Eight months after deposing the old despot, Egypt is now in the firm grip of a new and improved military dictatorship – The Supreme Counsel of the Armed Forces. Any lingering doubt about the intentions of the generals to retain command and control of the ship of state vanished on Bloody Sunday.
There is no need for additional forensic evidence of what exactly transpired at Maspero, the site of a massacre that can only be called a crime against humanity.
What started out as a peaceful march against religious persecution by Salafi vandals with a nasty habit of destroying Coptic churches turned into a blood bath. Two dozen demonstrators were murdered, the youngest of them 12 years old.
The only real question remaining is whether the slaughter was premeditated. From where I sit in Cairo, it sure looks that way. How else can one explain the outright lies and deceptions propagated by state owned media operatives?
The provocative coverage by State TV made it sound like Coptic gangs armed with machine guns had assaulted unarmed military police. And the public ate it up because they ‘saw’ it on their Telly. A call went out for ‘honorable’ citizens to go out and defend the army.
Of course, that story turned out to be a load of state manufactured manure. The online English language Al-Ahram website, also a government media outlet, gave a very different account.
“A march of 10,000 Copts began today from Shubra to the State TV building in Maspero turned violent when protesters were attacked by stone throwing mobs from on top of the surrounding walls while they were trying to cross the Shubra tunnel. A 15-minute battle ensued as the Coptic protesters fought back and hurled stones at their assailants. Gun shots were fired in the sky, leaving terrified demonstrators wondering aloud if they were going to be shot.”
“During the attack, panic ensued as women protesters were told to stand under the bridge for safety as Coptic youth tried to contain the march. After the battle stopped the march, once again regained its peaceful nature and continued towards Maspero.”
“On their way to Maspero they stopped in the neighboring Galaa Street and were attacked once again. A car sped through the crowd and randomely shot at protesters. The march continued once again to Maspero where the protesters were attacked again with increased vigour and violence.”
“An Ahram Online correspondent at Maspero reports seeing glass being thrown down at protesters from inside the State Broadcasting building in Maspero while armoured personnel carriers were driven by the army through the crowds, hitting and running protesters over. Eyewitness accounts posted on Twitter detail people being shot by the armed forces and attacked by plain-clothed thugs, with fire consuming vehicles by the Nile.”
“So far confirmed as being among those killed are Mina Daniel, an activist and blogger; Wael Yunna, a journalist for Coptic TV; and Michael Mosaad, an activist and member of the Maspero Youth Coalition.”
“The protest was organised by the Maspero Youth Union, a group of young Coptic activists to protest against the recent violations against Copts. The protesters chanted, ‘raise your head high you are a Copt,” and “no to burning of churches.” The protesters also chanted against the army, shouting “the people want the fall of the Field Marshall Tantawi,” and chanted: “Tantawi, where is your army, our homes and churches are being attacked.”
The very next morning, the Arabic print version of Al-Ahram spared all of 150 words to report the story. The brief account didn’t even mention a clash or report on the casualties. This sanitary version of the events had Muslims and Christians marching peacefully chanting “Muslims and Copts are One Hand.” My best guess is that they didn’t want to squander all their recently acquired post-revolutionary virginity on a single story.
By Tuesday morning, Al-Ahram was back to usual form and reporting an eyewitness account from a wounded soldier who claimed he saw 14 of his comrades burned alive in an armored personnel carrier. The journalist who wrote that story is well-advised to invest a little money in a calculator. The official death toll is 25 killed. Of those, 21 have already been identified as Copts, two bodies are unidentified and it’s not exactly certain who the other two are. They could have been soldiers but then again they could have been Muslim activists who were marching in solidarity with their Coptic brothers. The army initially claimed that three of its soldiers had died and now refuses to confirm the exact count. Usually, in similar circumstances, the soldiers who die in the line of duty are identified and their families are awarded compensation and press coverage to honor their sacrifice. So it could be that the military suffered no fatalities.
The bottom line is that the state owned press accounts were all over the place even though the reported events happened right under their noses. The site of the massacre was across the street from the State Television building at Maspero. State media, any state media, is always a suspect source of information. But when you get this level of confusion in Egyptian state media outlets, it is a sure sign of a cover-up.
The behavior of these ‘journalists’ – and I use that word very loosely – is very similar to what happened on February 2, 2011. That is exactly the same scenario that transpired during the infamous “Battle of the Camels” when armed thugs on horses and camels attacked demonstrators in Tahrir Square.
At the time, the army had already committed itself to protecting the demonstrators and volunteered to be a “custodian of the revolution.” But a curious thing happened – the army didn’t intervene and never bothered to explain how the hired goons had penetrated their lines or how they had manage to pass unnoticed through dozens of army checkpoints that were set up to enforce a curfew. That remains a taboo subject.
But there are some things we now know about the “Battle of the Camel.” It was a carefully orchestrated attempt by the Mubarak regime to abort the revolution and the plan included a very well-defined role for state media operatives. Their instructions were to ignore it and concentrate on reporting on ‘spontaneous’ outbreaks of support for the now deposed president. It’s fair to speculate that similar instructions were handed down to state media operatives on Bloody Sunday. For the record, these government salaried scribes are pretty much the same crowd that faithfully supported Mubarak for thirty years.
The massacre at Maspero came straight out Mubarak’s play book. Manufacture chaos, pose as a savior of the nation and extend the emergency laws or maybe go a bit further and declare martial law. Field Marshal Tantawi is already signaling the need to impose harsher measures against unidentified domestic and foreign provocateurs.
The Coptic demonstrators were not hooligans armed with machine guns; their ranks included women, children and sympathetic Muslim activists. And autopsies confirm that many of them were shot, stabbed, crushed by armored personnel carriers or beaten to death.
There is absolutely no need for a massive inquiry here. Just ask the soldiers and officers what their instructions were and who gave the orders. Pull in a few of the journalists on the state payroll and ask them the same thing. Round up a few of the thugs who attacked the demonstrators to determine if they acted ‘spontaneously’ or if they also had instructions. I’ll bet my last dollar that this was a False Flag operation to manufacture chaos and create enough sectarian tension to justify continued military rule.
Which gets me back to my initial thesis which is that there never was an Egyptian revolution. What happened in Egypt was a coup d’état that rode the back of a popular uprising, tamed it and now plans to re-establish six decades of military dictatorship. The generals were more than happy to get rid of Mubarak and his heir, a son who was not only a corrupt investment banker but also a draft dodger who never served a day in the military and was rumored to have a British passport.
The Copts who perished on Bloody Monday will go down as the last martyrs of the first Egyptian uprising or the first martyrs of the second Egyptian uprising. Either way, their blood will remain an indelible stain on Egyptian history. May God have mercy on their souls.
– Ahmed Amr is the former editor of NileMedia.com and the author of The Sheep and the Guardians – Diary of a SEC sanctioned swindle. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.