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Canada backs violent military regime in Egypt

Egyptian state forces fire on gatherings commemorating 2011 uprising

by Stefan Christoff

photo thiên v. Egyptian military helicopter 2013.
photo thiên v. Egyptian military helicopter 2013.
photo Hossam el-Hamalawy. Tahrir protest 2011.
photo Hossam el-Hamalawy. Tahrir protest 2011.

In recent days, the deadly nature of Egypt’s military-backed government is being asserted violently on the streets.

According to Human Rights Watch at least twenty people participating in demonstrations, marking the January 2011 uprising against former dictator Hosni Mubarak, were gunned down by state military and police forces this past weekend.

Canada’s Conservative government has moved clearly to diplomatically bolster the authoritarian regime in Cairo over the past year. Foreign minister John Baird’s two official visits to the country, aiming to boost political and economic links, failed to seriously address the human rights disaster facing Egypt, described by the Committee to Protect Journalists as an atmosphere with “zero tolerance for dissent or criticism.”

Canada has even failed to fully prioritize the release of Mohamed Fahmy, the high-profile Canadian Al Jazeera journalist who recently won Canada's Committee for World Press Freedom award. Now jailed for over a year, along with two Al Jazeera colleagues, Fahmy’s case occurs as part of the larger crackdown on freedom of the press in Egypt, again highlighted this past weekend by the arrests of journalists covering revolution anniversary protests.

Egypt’s deadly and stark descent into military-driven authoritarian rule, was horrifyingly illustrated in recent days by the death of social activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, shot dead by state forces during one gathering commemorating the January 2011 uprising.

Aiming to place a large flower wreath at the iconic Tahrir Square, the heart Egypt's recent revolution now underlockdown by state forces, Shaimaa and others were blocked from accessing the public square, forced by police onto a side-street’s sidewalk and eventually shot on with live ammunition, a shocking moment captured on video by media activists.

Unauthorized memory’ a striking text by Yasmin El-Rifae, published yesterday by the excellent independent media initiative Mada Masr, highlights the intense symbolism of Shaimaa’s death.

“The place where Shaimaa was killed for trying to remember the lives of others who have fallen is now off-limits. There are tanks and barbed wire barriers and hundreds of thousands of police and state security, many of them dressed in black face masks and combat boots, like gunmen in a bad film or, I suspect, many nightmares.

The gunmen and their bosses have made it clear that unauthorized memory will not be tolerated. Neither will grief. Public language, thought, and opinion is either legal or illegal, patriotism or treason.”

Shaimaa, long involved with leftist activism in Egypt, is now quickly becoming a haunting symbol of the systemic repression and brutal violence that is central to the authoritarian rule of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Another state shooting death in recent days, that has gotten far less international media attention, is Sondos Reda Abu Bakr, a 17 year-old high school student, shot in the chest at close range by police during anti-government protests in Alexandria.

These shootings by state forces took place right as the Egyptian government moved to cancel official events marking the revolution's anniversary, instead calling for one week of “national mourning” following the death of Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian monarch King Abdullah, who's reign epitomized human rights abuse.

Also these recent deadly days occur in parellel to an Egyptian court ordered release of Mubarak's sons Alaa and Gamal, “pending a retrial” in a corruption case, both living symbols of the massive corruption endemic under the previous regime, that by countless political indicators is strongly tied to the current, post-revolution regime.

Recent mainstream media interviews with Sisi, recorded at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, see manipulative attempts by the Egyptian ruler to link the 2011 revolution with the militaristic neo-liberalism now shaping government policy. On the ground in Egypt, the crass and cynical nature of Sisi’s recent discourse in Davos is unrelentingly clear, as state security forces continue to violently shut down public gatherings on the streets across the country and literally blow up hundreds of homes in Rafah, Egypt.

Behind bars, the number of prisoners jailed without due process in Egypt now amounts to thousands and thousands, while Human Rights Watch, documenting the growing numbers of prisoner deaths, writes that “scores of Egyptians died in government custody in 2014, many of them packed into police stations in life-threatening conditions. Yet the authorities have taken no serious steps either to improve detention conditions or to independently investigate detainees’ deaths.”

Canada’s sustaining embrace of military-backed authoritarianism in Egypt, speaks to the cynical and distressingly opportunistic politics that guide Conservative foreign policy. Any moral compass is clearly vacant from international policy decisions taking place in Ottawa. Concerning Egypt, Canada is first focused on securing deals for neo-liberal Canadian corporate interests — particularly arms companies — and secondly fixed on sustaining a violent neo-colonial power balance in the world, that in real terms equals direct complicity with the ongoing deadly repression, no only in Egypt, but in many countries around the world.

— Stefan Christoff @spirodon is a writer, community activist and musician living in Montreal, Stefan works with Tadamon! a collective working to support social justice struggles and anti-colonial movements in Palestine and across the Middle East region.


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Stefan Christoff (Stefan Christoff)
Montreal, Quebec
Member since April 2010

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Stefan Christoff is a Montreal-based journalist, community organizer and musician.

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