Part of effort to elevate military to iconic status
Massive crowds opposed to deposed President Mohamed Morsy are pouring into Tahrir Square, which has over the last couple of years transformed itself from an arena of spontaneous rebellion to a staging post for managed change.
Hawkers at the venue are doing brisk business, selling pictures of all sizes of a youngish looking General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the Defence Minister who has become the face of what his supporters say is the beginning of Egypt’s second revolution. A symbol of Egypt’s societal split between a secularist and an Islamist core, General El-Sisi’s critics hold him responsible for mounting a bloodless coup — terminology that is deeply resented at the Square — that toppled an elected President on Wednesday.
There is a conscious attempt at Tahrir to elevate the Egyptian military to iconic status, as an unimpeachable guardian of political stability, social justice and patriotism.
Posters are being distributed at the venue with Gen. El-Sisi’s pictures in full uniformed regalia, juxtaposed with images of former President Anwar Sadat; and Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had emerged as a celebrated symbol of Arab nationalism half a century ago.
It is apparent that Egypt’s new rulers are mounting a herculean effort to have Gen. El-Sisi in the popular imagination as the legitimate successor of the finest and the most idealistic that the Egyptian military has so far produced.
Gen. El- Sisi is also being projected as a social unifier — with pictures being parcelled around at the Square that show him flanked on either side with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, and the Grand Mufti of the Al Azhar mosque.
A raised platform with black speaker towers has become the focal point of activity at the Square, where mike in hand, young men wearing black T-shirts and cotton trousers are holding forth. They are part of the Tamrod [Rebel] campaign, which has transformed Egypt’s political landscape.
Inspired by the message of Mahmoud Badr (27) and four others, its supporters had fanned out in the country to accumulate 22 million signatures, calling for Mr. Morsy’s exit. Tamrod supporters say that their signature campaign provides legitimacy for the deposition of Mr. Morsy, who had mustered only 13 million votes in elections that made him President.
The Tamrod campaign has backed its claims with a show of strength by mustering millions in anti-Morsy rallies that finally culminated with the President’s exit.
Unlike the previous youth movements that had brought down former President Hosni Mubarak, the Tamrod has firmly allied itself with the military — a move that could backfire in case the army settles itself in its pre-Mubarak plutocratic cocoon.
From the podium that is awash with Egyptian flags, and from where patriotic songs blare, the campaign’s members passionately seek to distinguish the mainstream military — led by Gen. El-Sisi — from the one having the likes of Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which had steered Egypt’s post-Mubarak transition. Speakers on stage condemn the Field Marshall as the vestige of the Mubarak era — pointing out that the worst of a bygone generation in the army has been purged.
Dismissive of West
In sharp contrast to the early phase of the anti-Mubarak uprising when “democratic West” was the flavour of the season, Tahrir Square after Mr. Morsy’s exit is awash with posters and banners that are dismissive of the West, especially the United States, for its alleged support for Mr. Morsy and his parent organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Emblazoned on a banner bearing President Barack Obama’s picture at the Square are the words: “Wake up America, Obama backs a Fascist regime in Egypt”. Another banner that is stingingly critical of the Americans said, “Obama supports terrorism”. Posters where pictures of President Obama and Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, are crossed with X-signs are pervasive at the Square. By late afternoon on Sunday, crowds were pouring into Tahrir square for an anti-Morsy rally from four different directions .