A few years ago, a woman, Nedā Āghā-Soltān, was shot dead in Tehran amidst a peaceful protest against the results of the 2009 Iranian presidential elections in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been re-elected. As would be expected in such circumstances, the world was outraged and criticised Iran as pictures of the murdered woman emerged.
Fast forward 5+ years later, history seems to have repeated itself. A very similar scenario occured in January this year in Cairo, Egypt, when Shaimaa el-Sabbagh, a 31-year-old mother who was a pro-democracy activist, was shot dead while walking towards Tahrir square. El Sabbagh wanted to lay a wreath of roses remembering the hundreds of people who died from police/army gunfire since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011. An honourable symbol to honour the matryrs of the Arab Spring. Unfortunately, Tahrir square had been cordoned off by the Egyptian military, but instead of the authorities allowing an unarmed civilian to go through and lay a wreath, they murdered her. Forcefully depriving her 5 year old child of a mother.
Osama Hammam, a photographer who was covering the protest, described how security forces started firing teargas and shotguns at the protest without warning. In his post to Human Rights Watch (chronicled in a story about the murder here), he says:
“The demonstration was simply 30 people carrying some roses, half of them were old guys, and the street was empty …. “And the police were on the sidewalk on the opposite side.”
According to the Guardian, the day before Sabbagh’s death, another female protester, 17-year-old Sondos Ridha, was also killed.
- Egypt faces a new, harsher kind of repression (USA Today)
Curiously and somewhat predictably, while in 2009 a media storm erupted over Nedā’s murder, and while many western countries were quick to criticise Iran, there isn’t much in public rhetoric expressing outrage against Al Sisi. I don’t think the White House even issued a statement criticising the shooting.
So forgive me for asking, but what is the difference between the repression of innocent people by Ahmadinejad’s Iran in 2009, and the current tyranny we are witnessing today in Egypt? A tyranny that imprisons innocent journalists on the pretext of some sick political fantasy. A regime that went as far as banning the news media from discussing the case of Shaimaa el-Sabbagh. Why would they do that if they were innocent,and really acting in the interests of Egyptians?
Can you really claim that the actions that led to the murder were the kind of “Freedom” which the 2011 protesters at Tahrir square fought for (and since then thousands died for)?
I don’t think so.
All brutality must be condemned, irrespective of who is responsible, and where it happens? Because how can you legitimately claim the upper moral ground in the ‘war against terrorism’ and when attempting to undermine jihadists, when certain kinds of terrorism are being easily let off as justified, whereas other types are not? When the perpetrators of some kinds of terrorism are being protected…?
How does Sisi’s regime compare to the brutality of Mubarak’s Egypt, when even fellows at reputable think tanks believe Al Sisi is in fact worse than Mubarak? Doesn’t the support the US affords to Egypt’s current government amount to replacing one dictator with an other?
It doesn’t make sense. And if it did, then it would be dishonest, and wrong.
These politicians who think such a policy is sound will regret their actions. US Foreign Policy has gone mad. Like really mad. After all the disastrous actions of the last 2 decades, and the murderous vermin spawned, you’d have thought these guys will learn from their previous mistakes. But again and again, they have demonstrated that they never learn. Instead, it appears as though Western countries still think they can support oppressive ruthless regimes in North Africa and the middle east, but simultaneously claim to be torchbearers of Freedom and Democracy??
Hypocrisy of the worst kind, if not classic doublethink.
It’s not on. It will never work. It must end.
- Coming to Mourn Tahrir Square’s Dead, and Joining Them Instead ( New York Times)
- Egypt faces a new, harsher kind of repression
- Female protester’s death prompts rare condemnation in Egyptian state media ( The Guardian)
- 14 protest videos that went viral and changed the world (Salon)