CAIRO - While still both recognizing the ongoing struggle for freedom and social justice, the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party on one side and the opposition on the other will mark the second anniversary of the Jan. 25 Egyptian revolution in two very different ways.
As the Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party launch a service campaign to commemorate the anniversary of the revolution, opposition groups are calling for nationwide protests against the “Brotherhoodization” of the state, among other demands.
In a news conference Tuesday, the Brotherhood and the FJP launched a campaign titled “Together We Build Egypt,” which entails offering free healthcare services, renovating around 2,000 schools and attempting to alleviate economic burdens by setting up markets that will sell goods at wholesale prices.
Campaign official Mostafa Ghoneim called on “all sons and daughters of Egypt, who were together as one in the revolution, to start building Egypt — working together again — so this homeland may take its rightful place among the countries of the world, and to provide a great model of civilization building.”
He also urged businessmen and civil institutions to participate in the campaign.
On the other hand, opposition groups have called for nationwide protests to mark the revolution’s second anniversary, reiterating demands for bread, freedom and social justice, as well as fighting the “Brotherhoodization” of the state.
At a news conference last week at the Journalists Syndicate, 16 political groups said they would participate, including the Dostour Party, the Popular Current, the Kefaya movement, the April 6 Youth Movement Democratic Front and the Free Egyptians Party.
The National Salvation Front also announced plans to participate, listing a set of demands including the drafting a constitution that guarantees a democratic system for a civil state, retribution for the revolution’s injured and martyrs, as well as the achievement of economic development by better managing national wealth and natural resources. They call for realizing the concept of “citizenship” and eradicating discrimination based on gender, religion, color or race, and achieving equality by respecting women’s rights as well as guaranteeing free and fair elections.
In a statement earlier this week, the NSF said that two years in, the Muslim Brotherhood’s mistakes and limitations have accumulated, leading to the deterioration of the economy and amplifying people’s suffering, and affected national and internal security and curtailed freedom.
Said Sadek, commentator and political sociology professor at the American University in Cairo, forecasts that Friday will be a “cocktail of reactions.”
With the Muslim Brotherhood’s campaign and the opposition planning on taking to the streets, and others planning on just staying put, Sadek explains that it remains unclear which side will prevail.
“The day can pass peacefully or it can turn violent, but we still don’t know because revolutions are unpredictable,” he explains. “It is still not over in Egypt, it’s like an earthquake with an aftershock.”
Under tyranny, “you know what to expect, but with revolutions, it is hard to tell,” he adds.
Only days before the verdicts in the Port Said football violence and Jan. 25, President Mohamed Morsi issued a decree to consider the massacre’s victims among the revolution's martyred and injured.
Sadek says this was a strategic decision in attempt to absorb the ultras’ anger before the verdict and the anniversary.
On Feb. 1 2012, at least 79 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured after violence erupted following an Egyptian premier league match at the Port Said stadium. A major factor in the violence was the involvement of extremist soccer fans known as ultras, who were also involved in clashes in Tahrir square during the Egyptian revolution.
Ultras organized a roving protest around Cairo Wednesday and threatened to escalate if justice is not served.
According to Ikhwanweb, the Brotherhood’s English-language website, Ghoneim explained that the campaign extends until Feb. 22 and will be followed by similar initiatives.
“We have focused our efforts on three major projects, including healthcare for a large number of citizens. They begin with providing service to approximately one million patients during the first month,” Ghoneim said at the news conference.
“In the first phase, we are also targeting maintenance, restoration and beautification of about 2,000 schools. There is also a project entitled ‘Easing the burden on Egyptian households,’ which focuses on setting up big flea markets with the help of various charitable organizations and major malls, selling goods at wholesale prices,” he said.
Improving the Brotherhood’s image
Sadek says the Muslim Brotherhood is playing the stability card with their campaign, juxtaposing that with the protests scheduled for Friday to improve its image.
“They want a split screen on the TVs, one side showing protests and the other showing them offering services only to say ‘see, we want stability and development and they want chaos’,” Sadek says.
He explains that Islamism depends largely on social, political and economic conservatism, making its main base the countryside and squatter settlements.
“This is what their campaign revolves around development, because they target these people,” he says. “Why did they choose to launch this campaign now? Why not a month ago?”
The Brotherhood, however, says it recognizes that the revolution has a long way ahead, with the campaign paving the way.
“Two years in, some of the revolution’s objectives have been achieved, but there is still a lot yet to be achieved. The Brotherhood and the FJP, together with patriotic groups and movements are endeavoring to accomplish all these goals,” Mahmoud Hussein, secretary general of the Muslim Brotherhood, said at the news conference.
Ammar Fayed, Brotherhood member and political researcher, agrees, but says the group is avoiding confrontation at all costs on Jan. 25.
“The anniversary of the revolution calls for taking to the streets since its objectives are not yet fully achieved; however, the Muslim Brotherhood is choosing not to do that to avoid any kind of confrontation with opposition forces,” he explains.
Fayed says the group has no problem with the scheduled protests on Friday, and that if it weren’t for the congestion and the risk of altercations, the Brotherhood would have been in the squares too.
He says that while the group respects the right to protest, he dismisses calls for bringing down Morsi.
“Morsi was elected by a legitimate vote. If we call for ousting anyone we don’t like, we will reach a vicious cycle,” he says. “If Morsi leaves, another president will come and others will object to him too.”
He maintains, however, that even though there might be streets presence in the form of medical convoys, for example, they will avoid any places where protests are held.
One thing is certain though, Sadek says, no matter what happens, Jan. 25 2013 will ring in a turbulent year for Egypt on the economic, social and political levels.
“Even if Friday passes peacefully, Egypt won’t live happily ever after,” he said.