“A position paper on the phenomenon of the mobilization of citizens’ support against the opposition”
Prepared by: Karim Abdelrady
“Khalti Faransa” and the black Wednesday:
“Khalti Faransa” a famous Egyptian movie, depicting a meeting between an official from the national ruling party and two women from the slums, Faransa “played by actress Abla Kamel” and her niece Batta ”actress Mona Zaky”, who used to be recruited by a police officer to assault opposition demonstrators. In a scene, Batta realizes the truth about the opposition while she was beating a woman who started to explain the situation to her. Batta understands in the movie, but in reality, Batta-like citizens never change.
A year after the screening of the movie, exactly, on Wednesday 25th of May 2005, while “Kefaya” was organizing a demonstration in front of the Journalists’ Syndicate, protesting the forged referendum to amend the constitution, several female journalists were taking part in this demonstration. A signal by 3 National Democratic Party (NDP) members accompanied by police officers prompted a number of female “honorable citizens” attacked the female journalists, harassing them, stripping off their cloths, cursing them with the worst of insults. The investigation was reserved and the victims were subjected to a horrific smear campaign.
Traitors and sons of filth
That was the chant of the “honorable” citizens responding to the allegedly “non-honorable” citizens who were chanting “Egyptian.. Egyptian” in reference to the two Islands “Tiran” and “Sanafir”. The two islands were relinquished, sold or handed over to Saudi Arabia.
The alleged ‘honorable” citizens also tried to assault journalists who were attempting to reach their Syndicate to join the demonstration protesting the waiver of the two Islands. A journalist posed a question to police officers who were calmly watching, wondering if they approve this assault. The police officers answered claiming that these attackers are citizens who are expressing their opinion “exactly like you”.
Few hours later, a VIP citizen and a police in plain clothes handed the “honorable” citizens an amount of money, one of them protested that the amount is few, the officer responded: it is good, we will make it up for you next time.”
After a protest aginst waiving Tiran and Sanafir Islands
“Respectable revered elders, who taught us a lot for decades, like Mr. Helmi Shaarawi, Dr. Abdul Galil Mostafa, ambassador Shokri Fouad, Mr. Gamil Matar, Abdullah al Sennawi, Ibrahim Abdul Maguid, Dr. Mostafa Kamel, Mr. Farid Zahran, George Ishak, Ahmed al Boraai, Kamal Abo Eita. Mohamed Anwar al Sadat and others were chased by thugs and criminals cursing them, throwing plates, cups and ashtrays at them, deliberately harming them. The starting moment was with the calling of sunset prayer, as the guests were ready to start eating breaking their fasting, suddenly a group of thugs attacked them screaming: traitors, spies, get out.
Khaled Dawood’s testimony about the “honorable” citizens attacking the Democratic Civil Movement’s Ramadan breakfast “Iftar” in the Swiss club, June/Ramadan 2018
“Selim al Nemr came to me at home, he told me we have a good job with Hussein Ragab, the man of the the Party, we will make good money without problems with the “government” – by which he means police detectives – and they will allow it.
I asked him: what is the story Selim?
He answered: the president will give a speech tonight, after he ends it we will go onto the streets supporting him in a demonstration and will beat those guys who want to destroy the country through protests, it is only two hours, they will pay us 50 L.E.
We went out to al Maadi streets after Mubarak’s speech, until we reached Algeria Square, we’ve seen there some guys and girls, we ran after them and beat some of them… the rest fled.”
An interview with one of the “honorable” citizens by a lawyer in the Arabic Network for Human Right Information, giving his testimony about his participation in a supporting demonstration after Hosni Mubarak’s Speech following “The Camel Battle” incidents. Names are fake, places are true.
Are the Honorable Citizens a mere Egyptian phenomenon?
We do not believe so, as the world witnessed such a phenomenon under the rule of Arab and international dictatorships. It was observed under the rule of fugitive dictator “Zein Al Abedin bin Ali”, as thugs were assaulting opposition and civil society members in Avenue Habib Bourguiba’s coffee shops, seminars and meetings held by NGOs. They used to attempt to spoil seminars and meetings, assaulting attendees and curse them, either inside or outside Tunisia.
The phenomenon was also observed in Syria during the rule of Bashar al Assad, as thugs used to attack and defame opposition figures in “Al Rawda” and “Havana” coffee shops and other coffee shops around the criminal court in Damascus. After the revolution assaults turned to be bloody and violent, those who carried out such attacks are called “Shabbiha”. They used to kill and torture opponents.
It was also witnessed in Venezuela, when thugs attacked and defamed opponents of the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro few weeks ago and on different occasions.
Yet, in Egypt, the phenomenon was developed to reach upper middle class, like journalists, media figures, businessmen, lawyers, intellectuals. Now it is not restricted to poor and ignorant people.
Who are the “Honorable” citizens?
Most of them suffer poverty and ignorance, dwell in slums, eventually they end up in police station detention cells, whether because they got involved in street fights or debts they cannot afford to pay or drugs and crime.
They call the police “the government”. When they say “the government” is here, they mean police detective patrols that confiscate goods from street vendors. Sometimes they arrest people for not having an IDs, or simply for replying in a manner the detective doesn’t consider to be polite enough.
When the government “Police detectives”, or their friends from the governing party, try to recruit those people to perform services, it is natural that those people welcome performing such services, for money, for being close to the “government” in order not to be arrested or tortured. Some of them try to convince themselves that the “government” knows better, and maybe the “others” are really spies and traitors. But not all of them.
Types of “Honorable” citizens:
Yet, there are different types of “honorable” citizens other than those poor and illiterate
- The “Honorable” lawyer, such a lawyer who chases opponents and critics of the regime, who files complains against them to the Public Prosecution, files lawsuits, defames them, in order to silence them, either with the support and demand of the authorities, or based on his personal belief that he has to fight “traitors”. Sometimes to become a celebrity, hosted by TV channels, is a sufficient motive.
- The “Honorable” media figure, professionalism is not a criterion, it depends more on your capability to defame others and forge lies. Not to mention getting into their personal life and embarrassing their families. This kind of media workers is abundant and influential.
Stories About Honorable citizens:
Incidents are countless, for example, beating Dr. Mohamed al Baradie in al Moqattam, attempt of assaulting Dr. Alaa al Aswani, beating journalist Nawara Ahmed Fouad Negm in front of Maspero and thwarting demonstrations of Calling For Democracy Movement in downtown.
Here are some observations concerning similar incidents, illustrating the collective movement of ‘honorable’ citizens groups, in an organized and predestined way, not randomly or haphazardly:
- Battle of the Camel
One of ANHRI’s lawyers, who was in Tahrir square, received several calls, in the dawn of the 2nd February 2011, from some residents of the neighborhood, warning him from staying in Tahrir Square, informing him that some Parliament and authority members recruited thugs to attack protesters in Tahrir square. This was one of many complains received by ANHRI. It became clear that those who warned us are well connected with the authorities.
The news did not reach some residents of the neighborhood only. The Egyptian media broadcast frightening news to push protesters out of the square. Especially channel I, as they broadcast the following statement:
A call for your safety. Please go back home. We have received information about some evocative persons, carrying fire balls and going to the square. Please go back home for your safety. Those who have connections with any person that presents now in the square, please call him/her and tell them that the national TV broadcast this news according to positive confirmed information.
We wonder about the source of information, about the call for the peaceful protesters to leave the square instead of calling on the authorities to resist the “evocative” persons.
Citizens who look poor, with a DJ, dancing chanting, emerge on request, recruited or victims of media incitement, besieged the square entrance in the 2nd of February 2011. Some of them were riding camels, horses and mules, some were on little trucks with cold and fire weapons chanting for Mubarak after the passionate speech he gave. They were a sort of mercenaries recruited by police officers and Parliament Members brought from slums. They stormed the square, killing a number of peaceful protesters. These are the “honorable” citizens.
Despite the endurance of the revolutionaries, and thwarting this attack, yet, the “honorable” citizens did not stop.
- Honorable anchors incite honorable citizens against Coptic Christians
“Till now, more that 3 martyrs and 20 injured, they are all soldiers, they were not killed by Israelis, or by an enemy, they are killed by a group of citizens”
These were the exact words of the Egyptian TV anchor “Rasha Magdy” with breaking news written on the screen: Coptic demonstrators throw stones and Molotov cocktail on military soldiers”
Honorable citizens rash to protect soldiers, eventually, a massacre took place, known as “Maspero Massacre” in October 2011, leading to the death of 26 Egyptians, most of them Copitc.
- Triangle Cheese… you rotten
Citizens went to a sit-in in front of “Etehadia” Palace, after the constitutional declaration was issued by Mohamed Morsi, the then president of the republic, to expand his power, violating the independence of the judiciary in November 2012.
Egypt was still vivid with the revolutionary movement, as people felt that their demands were not met.
Morsi belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, so instead of resorting to the police to disperse the sit-in, he pushed members of his group to attack it. At first they were chanting against the protesters, then the clashes broke out on the 4th of December 2012, when the honorable citizens from the Brotherhood attacked the protesters, trying to disperse the sit-in, while one of them screamed in front of the cameras holding a box of cheese: “triangle cheese…. you rotten”
- You took 5 billion Bassem
Honorable citizens also surrounded “Radio” theater, in which the famous comedian ‘Bassem Youssef’ used to shoot his program “Al Bernameg” in February 2014, in an attempt to intimidate him and prevent him from shooting the TV show, or at least to silence him in order not to criticize the Defense Minister at that time, who is currently the president, Abdul Fattah al Sisi. Bassem was cursed and defamed but the most weird accusation was made by a woman claiming that Bassem received 5 billion and deposited them in Swiss or American banks.
Honorable citizens did not stop until Bassem stopped the show and left the country.
- No Solidarity
In March 2014, a number of activists organized a protest in front of the Supreme Court in solidarity with activist Alaa Abdul Fattah and Ahmed Abdul Rahman after they were sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Honorable citizens stood by the side of security forces chanting in favor of the military and cursing the protesters. They were also chanting “The army and the people are one hand” in order to muffle the chants of the demonstrators.
- Arresting photographer Ahmed Abdul Gawwad and handing him over to the police
On the 14th of August 2014, while covering a Brotherhood’s demonstrations in Ahmed Zaki street, Dar al Salam district, a number of honorable citizens assaulted photojournalist Ahmed Abdul Gawwad along with a number of his colleagues, stealing his camera, injuring him, breaking his nose, then they arrested him and handed him over to Dar al Salam police station. He was detained there for a period of time without filing any complain or report against him, without investigating the assault he was subjected to, then he was released.
- Attacking protesters in solidarity with those who got arrested on “Jumaat al Ard” (Land Friday)
On the 19th of April 2016, while considering the appeal of 25 defendants arrested in demonstrations of what so called “Jumaat al Ard” of “Land Friday”, which was opposing the waiving of the two Islands Tiran and Sanafir. A number of activists gathered in solidarity with the detained in front of Zenhom court in al Sayed Zeinab district. A number of thugs attacked the activists, threw stones on them, chased them in the streets and among them women who assaulted female protesters.
- Beating Journalist Nora al Sayed
On the 19th of April 2016, a number of thugs started to beat journalist Nora al Sayed Afifi, who works for “Sout al Omma” newspaper, while she was covering the appeal session of the 25 defendants arrested in demonstrations of “Jumaat al Ard”.
A number of women attacked her and other young women, dragging them on the ground just in front of the court, she told them that she is a journalist attending to do her job, but to no avail. Her personal belongings also were looted.
- Well done journalists
On the 1st of May 2016, a number of journalists decided to hold a sit-in inside the headquarter of their syndicate calling for a general assembly, in protest against the security forces storming the syndicate to arrest 2 journalists. One of the arrested was a member in the syndicate’s council. A number of honorable citizens surrounded the syndicate and clashed with the journalists, raising photos of president Abdul Fattah al Sisi, chanting in support for the authorities, dancing on two famous songs supporting the regime and some of them climbed little trucks cursing journalists while they were getting in and out the syndicate raising shoes at them. All this took place in the presence of security forces which asked journalists to get into their syndicate in order to avoid clashes.
- No filming
On the 26th of September 2016, and during shooting a journalistic report by Hamdi al Zaeim and Ossama Gaber, some honorable citizens clashed with them because they were preparing a report concerning Hijab “Muslim women’s veil”. Journalist Mohamed Hassan was coming out of his syndicate and saw the scene so he interfered to defend his colleagues. A police officer came to the scene and arrested the three journalists. A report was filed against them and they were accused of joining a group founded contrary to the law provisions, inciting to demonstrate and publishing false news. They are still under pre-trial detention in case no. 15060 of 2016, Kasr al Nile misdemeanors.
- Beating Judge Hisham Guinina
On the 27th of January 2018, some unknown persons attacked Judge Hisham Guinina, former president of the central auditing organization, who was isolated from his post after issuing statements concerning corruption. It is worth mentioning that Guinina was a leading figure in the presidential campaign of Sami Anan, who is imprisoned now for attempting to run for the presidential elections. Guinina was coming out of his house when he was attacked and severely injured. He was taken to hospital and attackers were investigated pressing feeble charges against them, in an attempt to depict the situation as if it was a normal street fight, the defendants were detained for 4 days pending investigation then they were released on bail.
Hisham Guinina was arrested after leaving the hospital on charges of publishing false news. He is still under detention.
- Inside the underground wagons
In May 2018, a number of citizens protested against increasing the costs of the underground tickets from 2 pounds to 7 pounds. Demonstrators were arrested from Helwan, Maadi, Sadat, Marg and other stations. Some of them appeared in front of Helwan prosecution and were released, others appeared in front of the state security prosecution and they are still detained till now.
There were protests inside wagons of the underground, as citizens expressed their rejection to such an increase, but some honorable citizens tried to silence protesters and clash with them.
The phenomenon of “Honorable” citizens cannot grow and continue without a safe climate supporting, helping and even summoning it and preparing the beneficiary party, which is always the authorities, to cooperate with it. We perceive that there are factors that let and encouraged this phenomenon to take place. The authorities provided them with interests and benefits coming from illegal practices.
Here are the reasons of the growth of such a phenomenon in details:
Article 375 bis of the Penal Code states that “Without prejudice to any severe punishment contained in another provision, any person who himself or by a third person shall be subjected to a parade of force or a threat or use of force against the victim or his wife or any of his assets or branches, in order to intimidate him or terrify him by causing any physical or moral harm to him or to harm his property or to deprive him from his property or to obtain a benefit from it or to influence his will to impose force on him or to force him to carry out an act or to induce him to refrain from it or to obstruct the implementation of the laws and legislation or resistance of the authorities or the enforcement of judgments, or violations of order or judicial proceedings which are enforceable or of security or public peace, when such an act or threat would cause terror to the same victim or endangers his security or safety, jeopardizes his life or safety or causes damage to any of his property or interests or prejudice Personal freedom, honor or respect.
The aforementioned article is applicable to all those who attacked and intimidated Egyptian citizens, whether directly or by gathering them in cars and providing them with arms and money to carry out the crime.
In addition to the existence of indicators of most of the events that witnessed the emergence of honorable citizens, such as the siege of the Journalists Syndicate a day before its general assembly or the siege of some demonstrations protesting against the agreement to relinquish Tiran and Sanafir. The appearance of so-called honorable citizens and their aggression against the peaceful demonstrators took place on the advice of the security men. They stood on the same side with them, without moving to protect victims, which encouraged them to throw stones at civilians or assault them because they knew they were protected and will not be subjected to law.
And to emphasize that the law not only provided for punishment of incitement or assault by civilians against other civilians, but also punished every public official assigned to arrest and neglect a human being.
Article 141 of the Penal Code states that “Every employee or public employee who is charged with arresting a person and neglects the necessary procedures for the purpose of assisting him to escape from the face of the judiciary shall be entitled to the penalties prescribed in the preceding article according to the conditions set forth therein.”
As security officials were responsible for controlling the crimes in which there was a case of flagrante delicto, they had to prevent attacks by civilians against other civilians and to arrest the perpetrators, or they should be interrogated.
But the perpetrators of crimes have escaped punishment and accountability as well as those who are in charge to arrest them, so the phenomenon kept growing.
ANHRI believes that there is an urgent need to confront this phenomenon and eliminate it, to uphold the values of the rule of law and democracy, and hold accountable all those who instigated, rented or contributed to the growing phenomenon,
Where it has established and found a safe environment to grow in it and become a common tool for the siege of freedoms, without anyone being punished for it.
– The authorities or those belonging to it must stop summoning citizens and using them in pro-regime demonstrations in the face of opposition demonstrations in the same place and time.
– The Public Prosecutor’s Office must investigate the failure of security officers to arrest thugs and so-called honorable citizens committing crimes, and to hold those involved in their growth accountable,
whether they are policemen or officials with influence and money
–The authorities must put on trial anyone who violates the law, whether by attacking peaceful demonstrators, journalists, activists or others.
– Despite the demand to consolidate freedom of expression including, the right to demonstrate, the state should guarantee the right to all, supporters and opponents, and separate them, not to pretend neutrality between demonstrations of dissidents and artificial demonstrations of citizens in favor of the attack on dissidents.
– The authorities must put an end to the use of double standards before the law, where it ignores defamation campaigns by media professionals and journalists close to authorities against dissidents, while besieging and violating the right of opponents to freedom of expression, which in many cases has been tolerated as it includes only permissible criticism.