Egypt: A Day for Criticizing the Military

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

For decades, the Egyptian media was not allowed to criticize ousted President Hosni Mubarak – or the military – and journalists were jailed if they dared break such taboos. Then came the Egyptian revolution on January 25, 2011, and floodgates opened.

No one was afraid of attacking Mubarak in public any more. However, the military continued to remain a red line that is hard to cross by the media.

After about 100 days of revolution however, Egyptians decided to continue breaking the taboos they inherited from the former regime, dedicating the 23 May to criticizing the military and the SCAF (Supreme Council of Armed Forces) on their blogs.

#NoSCAF is a special hashtag that was was created on Twitter in order to collect all the blogs involved. Sherwet Ahmed collaborated with other netizens in order to collect all the blog posts in a Facebook note and on a blog account as well. So far the collected blogs have reached 375 posts, and there might be even more posts not yet included.

NoSCAF Trending in Egypt

NoSCAF Trending in Egypt

Hussein wrote a post about his participation in the day, and the self censorship citizens used to suffer from:

Even though my mother warned me about posting anything anti SCAF, I still posted this. I just cant sit here and read all these posts and be silent.

I spent my entire life living under a self censorship rule that I should never break and when I did, I was on the way to a severe punishment. My father made a few calls and It was as if nothing happened. It was the most awful feeling I’ve ever experienced. A feeling that is absurdly intoxicating and not even in a nice way, it intoxicates one with indifference and apathy.

He then continued to compare the state of the taboos we have before and after the revolution:

After Jan25 I felt different, I felt like I couldn’t be silent any more, I felt like the unseen observer had disappeared, I felt safe, I felt noble, I felt love but most of all I felt heard. Heard by those whom I’ve always wanted to reach. It was intoxicating once again, but this time it was absolutely phenomenal.

Unfortunately the feeling of self censorship took over once again, a little bit of at a time, till I felt like I was back pre Jan25. only this time it was worse, stories of military trials and sentences delivered in 10min without lawyers, stories of torture in the museum, stories of sexual assault and stories of media censorship. At least in Mubarak’s era my father’s phone book could help me, but now… with the army that is, I don’t think it can any more.

The SCAF had managed to make me feel insignificant once again; they managed to make me feel the fear. The SCAF unjustly persecuted civilians in military courts just for criticizing them. So I would like to tell the SCAF, with all due respect… “SHOVE IT!!!”

Mayet described the main goal for the blog posts [ar], and how it is meant to challenge the existing taboos:

وحتي لا يأتي رجال لا نعرف عنهم شيئ ويقعدوا يقرفونا مين إلي مخليكم تكتبوا التدونية دي وإيه أهدافها ومين دافع لكم، والمخابرات الأمريكية هيه إلي محرضاتكم علي ده، ويطلع لنا البعض الأخر ليصفونا بالثورة المضادة.
وأيضا حتي نسهل الموضوع علي السادة أعضاء المجلس العسكري، هذه التدوينة ومئات التدوينات الأخري التي كتبت في يوم 23 مايو 2011 وماقبلها ومابعدها عنكم، هي هدفها، إزاحة هالة ومرتبه اللاإنتقاد علي المجلس العسكري، بإعتبار أعضاءه بشر عادييون أساسا، إضافة إلي إنهم سياسيون بحكم ما أرادوا ورفضهم تكوين مجلس رئاسي يشارك فيه إحدي الشخصيات العسكرية لإدارة شئون البلاد خلال الفترة الإنتقالية.
هدف هذه التدونية، هو عوده الإعلام البديل، بعد ظهور “إعلام الملك الجديد” وعدم رغبته أو قدرته لكتابه ونشر إنتقاد علي تصرفات المجلس العسكري -الحاكم للبلاد-، وظهور إعلام عبده المشتاق، وكذلك تلويح قيادات المجلس العسكري بإستخدام القانون مش عارف رقم كام بتاع عدم النشر عن القوات المسلحة، وحبس الي يكتب عنهم، وده إحنا بنتحداه ﻷن المجلس العسكري هوه إلي بيحكم، فلازم ولابد نتكلم عن أخطاءه

Before anonymous people start to ask us why we are writing such blogs? Who is behind this initiative? Who pays you to do so? Is it the CIA behind this? And some others might even accuse us of being part of a counter revolution. Also to make is easier for the members of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces. This blog is one of hundreds of blogs which were written in the 23rd of May on the SCAF. It is also meant to remove this barrier that stops anyone from criticizing the SCAF, and its members who are humans and could be subjected to criticism. Let alone that they are now politicians, after they refused to form a civil council to rule the country during the current transitional state instead of them.

The goal of this blog is to launch an alternative media, after the traditional media is now controlled by its new owners and does not want or is not able to criticise the ruling armed forces council. Besides, they threat of using that law which I cannot remember its name that forbids publishing news related to the armed forces and whoever does so is subjected to detention. And this is what we are challenging now, as the SCAF is now ruling the country and we should be allowed to criticize it.

Journalist Evan Hill added on Twitter how such blogs are all technically against the law:

@evanchill: There are now at least 160 blog entries criticizing #Egypt's military leadership, which, technically, is a crime.

But as Mayet says above, all this is meant to challenge such laws in the first place – laws that were behind the arrest and detention of a blogger like Maikel Nabil.

The initiative was strong enough that some people who never blogged before, created blog accounts specially to participate in it. Fadaeya, who is one of the new bloggers, also shared her opinion [ar]:

في البداية دي اول مرة ادون فيها عن اي حاجة..بس حسيت اني عايزة اتكلم عن المجلس

من اول ما الجيش مسك في الاول فرحت وقلت كويس..وكنت طالعة بيه السماء.الجيش مننا ..مش الداخلية اللي هوايتها تعذب في الناس وبس
لكن شوية شوية ..لقيت حجات غريبة بتحصل..الموضوع بدا لما قريت ان واحد اسمه عمرو البحيري اتمسك لما في كان في مظاهرة عشان نشيل المدعو شفيق..واتحكم عليه عسكريا خمس سنين..ايه ده؟..هو الجيش بيعمل كده ليه؟..مش الجيش حامي الثورة
First of all, this is the first time for me to blog. But I felt that I have to have my say about the council.
In the beginning I was happy when the army became in charge. I was happy that the army is one of us, not like the ministry of interior that was used to torturing us. But after a while, strange things started to happen. In the beginning, someone called Amr El Beheiry was detained during his participation in a demonstration against [the prime minister at that time who was appointed by Mubarak] Ahmed Shafik. He was then sentenced to jail for five years after a military trial. What the hell is this?! Why does the army do this?! Aren't they the one's who are supposed to protect our revolution.

Karakeeb of Thought also shed the light on the way the media deals with the SCAF [ar]:

حد بيتفرج على التليفزين المصري ؟ .. حد حاسس بالفرق بين دلوقت وقبل الثورة ؟ .. انا بقى حاسس ..
قبل الثورة كانوا بيطبلوا لمبارك .. دلوقت بيطبلوا للمجلس العسكري .. يمكن يكون المجلس مطلبش حد يطبله .. بس في ناس متعرفش تعيش من غير ما تبقى بتطبل لحد .. الناس دي معادش ليها مكان في اعلام ما بعد الثورة .
Is anybody watching the Egyptian TV? Can you feel any difference between it now and before the revolution? I can tell you that before the revolution they used to praise Mubarak, and now they praise the SCAF instead. May be the council didn't ask them to do so, but some people can't live without praising someone. Those people shouldn't have place in our post-revolution media.

Karakeeb then moved on to the military trials and the way the army deals with demonstrations and sit-ins:

وايه موضوع المحاكمات العسكرية اللي شغالة الله ينور ؟ .. وكل مظاهرة تنتهي بالشرطة العسكرية نازلة تطوق الضرب في المتظاهرين ..
يعني الموضوع بدأ بضرب مرة وتاني يوم كان “اعتذار ورصيدنا يسمح” .. شوية كدة وكمان علقة بس من غير اعتذار .. ومن ساعتها والضرب شغال فلة وشمعة منورة وبقينا ملطشة .. وكل ما نتكلم الجيش يقوللك “ولد! .. انا اللي حميت الثورة يا ولد.” وتلاقي القلم نازل على قفاك يطرقع ..
هو انتوا جيتوا تحمونا ولا جيتوا تضربوا وتعتقلوا فينا .
What is it with the military trials? And every demonstration ends up with the military police beating the demonstrators.

It started by beating the protesters once, and the next day the army issues an apology. After a while, the beating returns but without an apology this time. And since then and beating the protesters is going on. And every time we address the army they say us that they are the ones who protected the revolution, followed by a slap on the back of your head. Are you here to protest us or to beat and arrest us?

Michael Habib also wrote [ar] about the referendum that was held in March, and how the army is dealing with its results since then:

إيه كان هدف الاستفتاء؟ ليه استفتيتونا على 9 مواد, وبعدين طلعتوا علينا بـ 60 – 70 مادة من الدستور القديم, وبعضها معدل وبعضها زي ماهو… إيه المعيار, وليه متمش الإستفتاء على الإعلان الدستوري كله؟
طب وليه اللواء ممدوح شاهين قال في مداخلة مع أون تي في إنه الإستفتاء كان على شرعية المجلس العسكري؟ وأن 77 % من الشعب قال نعم للمجلس العسكري وضد مجلس رئاسي مدني؟
هو الإستفتاء كان على المجلس ولا على الدين ولا على إيه بالضبط؟ أنا كنت فاكره على الدستور, ونزلت من بره مخصوص عشان أقول رأيي… لأن الدستور حاجة مهمة ليَّ ولمصر قوي

What was the point of the referendum? Why did you make us vote on 9 articles, and then came out with a 60 or 70 item-long constitution. Some of them have be copied from the old constitution and some were edited? Why didn't we vote on all the articles then?

And why did General Mamdouh Shahin say on ON TV that the poll was on the SCAF, and those 77% who voted with yes voted for the armed council and against having a civil council in charge? Was the poll on the council or on the religion [as one Salafy preacher said] or what? I though it was on the constitution, and this is why I travelled to Egypt especially to vote, as the constitution is something really important to me and to my country.

There are also calls for big demonstrations next Friday to make sure the demands still not achieved from the revolution to be fulfilled. Mostafa Sheshtawy wrote about his wish to have a civil state as well as on the planned 27th of May demonstrations:

So what did change? Why is the SCAF still in control? Is it pride? They will seem weak if they leave the control to someone else? I find almost every demand of Jan25 still not met! Only the overthrow of Mubarak, and after writing this, He is not really gone YET!

I’m glad we have a “strong army” but please I don’t want to see you unless we have a war, or unless I’m cursed enough to be enrolled this year!
See you Friday May27

And finally Al-Komy made it clear [ar] that we do not want to be a confrontation with the army, and that there is a way to not reach such a stage:

يمكن للمجلس تفادي الثورة المرتقبة للشعب المصري بإعلان جدول زمني محدد المعالم لتنفيذ المطالب أما سوى ذلك فهو مرفوض شكلا و موضوعا و يضع المجلس نفسه في خانة المواجهة مع الشعب للمرة الثانية في اقل من 4 شهور مواجهة مع شعب منتشي ما زال يزهو بقهره لاكبر جهاز امني قمعي في الشرق الاوسط
The Council can avoid the anticipated revolution of the Egyptian people by declaring a specific roadmap for fulfilling their demands, anything else will be rejected and will put the Council for the second time and in less then four months in confrontation with the people who still feel the euphoria of beating the most oppressive security service in the Middle East.

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.


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