Egypt army gives Brotherhood 48 hours to join roadmap

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Updated 18 August 2013

Egypt army gives Brotherhood 48 hours to join roadmap

CAIRO: Egypt’s army threatened on Thursday to turn its guns on those who use violence, its starkest warning yet ahead of what both sides expect will be a bloody showdown in the streets between supporters and opponents of deposed president Mohamed Mursi.
An army official said the military had issued an ultimatum to Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, giving the Islamist group until Saturday to sign up to a plan for political reconciliation which it has so far spurned.
The army has summoned Egyptians into the streets for Friday and made clear it intends the day to mark a turning point in its confrontation with the followers of Mursi, the elected leader the generals removed on July 3.
Mursi’s Brotherhood, which has maintained a street vigil for a month with thousands of followers demanding Mursi’s return, has called its own crowds out for counter-demonstrations across the country in a “day to remove the coup.”
Both sides have dramatically escalated rhetoric ahead of Friday’s demonstrations. The Brotherhood accused the army of pushing the nation toward civil war and committing a crime worse than destroying Islam’s holiest site.
The army issued its warning in a statement posted on a Facebook page. It will not “turn its guns against its people,” the statement said, “but it will turn them against black violence and terrorism which has no religion or nation.”
A military official said the army had given the Brotherhood 48 hours from Thursday afternoon to join the political process. He did not reveal what the consequences would be if the Brotherhood refuses.
Army chief General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has called on Egyptians to take to the streets and give him a “mandate” to take action against the violence that has convulsed Egypt since he shunted its first freely elected president from power.
The Brotherhood, an Islamist movement that won repeated elections since the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011, says it is the authorities themselves that have stirred up the violence to justify their crackdown.
The main anti-Mursi youth protest group, which has rallied behind the army, said its supporters were taking to the streets to “cleanse Egypt.”
The West is increasingly alarmed at the course taken by Egypt, a strategic hinge between the Middle East and North Africa, since the Arab Spring protests brought down Mubarak and ended decades of autocratic rule.
For weeks, the authorities have rounded up some Brotherhood officials but tolerated the movement’s presence on the streets, with thousands of people attending its vigil demanding Mursi’s return and tens of thousands appearing at its demonstrations.
That patience seems to have run out. Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, head of the interim cabinet installed by the army, said there was escalating violence by increasingly well-armed protesters, citing a bomb attack on a police station.
“The presence of weapons, intimidation, fear — this causes concern, especially when there are calls for many to come out tomorrow from different sides,” he told a news conference.
After a month in which close to 200 people have died in violence triggered by Mursi’s downfall, many fear the protests will lead to more bloodshed.
Past incidents of violence have tended to run through the night and into the following day. Another security official forecast violence beginning Friday night and stretching into Saturday, the period covered by the army’s ultimatum. He also indicated that the two-day period was expected to be decisive.
“The history of Egypt will be written on those days,” said the official, part of a security establishment that accuses the Islamists of turning to violence.
The Brotherhood blames the violence on the authorities, accusing them of stirring it up to justify a crackdown with the ultimate goal of wiping the group out.
Reiterating his group’s commitment to peaceful protest, senior Brotherhood politician Farid Ismail accused the security services of readying militias to attack Mursi supporters, adding that Sisi aimed to drag Egypt into civil war.
“His definition of terrorism is anyone who disagrees with him,” Ismail told Reuters. “We are moving forward in complete peacefulness, going forward to confront this coup.”
Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie issued a statement accusing Sisi of committing a crime worse than destroying the Kabaa — the site in Makkah to which all Muslims face when they pray — “brick by brick.”
But many Egyptians are no less passionately backing the army, determined to see the Brotherhood reined in.
“There are men carrying guns on the street ... We will not let extremists ruin our revolution,” said Mohammed Abdul Aziz, a spokesman for Tamarud, an anti-Mursi petition campaign that mobilized protests against his rule.
“Tomorrow we will cleanse Egypt,” he told Reuters.

Uncompromising
Sisi’s speech on Wednesday pointed to the deepening confrontation between the Brotherhood and the military establishment, which has reasserted its role at the heart of government even as it says it aims to steer clear of politics.
Saying it moved against Mursi in response to the biggest popular protests in Egypt’s history, the army installed an interim cabinet that plans to hold parliamentary elections in about six months, to be followed by a presidential vote.
The Brotherhood says it wants nothing to do with the transition plan. With Mursi still in military detention at an undisclosed location, there is slim hope for compromise.
The country remains deeply split over what happened on July 3. The Brotherhood accuses the army of ejecting a democratically elected leader in a long-planned coup, while its opponents say the army responded to the will of the people.
Sisi announced the nationwide rallies after a bomb attack on a police station in Mansoura, a city north of Cairo in which a policeman was killed. The government said it was a terrorist attack. The Brotherhood also condemned the bombing, accusing the establishment of seeking to frame it.
Since Mursi was deposed, hard-line Islamist groups have also escalated a violent campaign against the state in the lawless Sinai Peninsula, with daily attacks on the police and army.
Two more soldiers were killed on Thursday in an attack on a checkpoint, security and medical sources told Reuters.
At the Brotherhood protest camp in front of a Cairo mosque, Mursi supporters said they expected the army to provoke violence to justify its crackdown.
“The army itself will strike. They will use thugs and the police,” said Sarah Ahmad, a 24-year-old medical student.
Essam El-Erian, another senior Brotherhood politician, accused “the putschists” of trying to recreate a police state, telling a televised news conference: “This state will never return, and Egypt will not go backwards.”

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Artists take a stand in Lebanon’s peaceful uprising

Updated 17 November 2019

Artists take a stand in Lebanon’s peaceful uprising

  • What blankets the walls of the ongoing 'revolution' in Beirut and other cities is art
  • For the protesters, public art is a means of communicating their political message

BEIRUT: Cries were heard in the town of Khaldeh, south of Beirut, on the night of Nov. 12. They were different from the sounds that have become the background noise of the Lebanese Revolution.

A soldier had killed Alaa Abou Fakher, a local official from the Progressive Socialist Party headed by Walid Jumblatt, a political leader of Lebanon’s Druze community, marking the third death in 27 consecutive days of protests.

The killing has escalated tensions that were already running high amid a nationwide protest movement that started off as a reaction to proposed new taxes before morphing into a veritable “people power” movement.

Protesters are demanding changes to Lebanon’s sectarian system of government, calls that have prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and will likely lead to more departures.

Meanwhile, what blankets the revolution’s walls of Martyrs’ Square; the ring (the tunnel linking west Beirut to east Beirut); the ESCWA (the UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia) boundary wall; the area next to Parliament; throughout Tripoli; and in countless other places is another form of protest: Art.

“The art we were trying to express has documented almost all the incidents of the revolution so far, day by day,” said Said Fouad Mahmoud, a graffiti artist who has been practicing for 11 years. “Some people are good with speech, others with song, and we raise our voices with drawings. I drew pictures of the moments that affected me the most: The role of the female in the revolution; the guy cleaning with one leg; and the first day of the revolution, with the flag and the fire.”

Graffiti by Said Fouad Mahmoud. (Supplied)

Many of the progressive-graffiti-laden walls fall under the umbrella of Iman Nasreddine Assaf’s Art of Change initiative, which she founded in May in partnership with local Beirut-based NGO Ahla Fawda and UK-based Where There’s Walls.

“Our purpose is to promote urban art to more than just the graffiti scene in order to spread important messages throughout the community,” said Assaf. “Our revolution walls are in support of, and part of, the demonstration and revolution. They are expressing people’s pain and demands and the impact has been strong. Art is the international language that touches all.”

Art has emerged as a favored medium of the revolutionaries to convey their political message. To this end, Art of Thawra (Art of Revolution), an Instagram page, is collecting and showcasing relevant artworks produced during the 2019 protests.

“There’s been a drastic increase in street art during this revolution,” said Mahmoud. “People are trying to send messages through their paintings. The art indicates how civilized people have been during the protests and how peaceful the revolution has been until now. I hope it will remain peaceful until the end. If it does, then it means art played a major role in this revolution because art is peace in itself.”

Lebanon’s contemporary art community has issued numerous statements regarding the closures of spaces, programs and exhibitions as artists, curators, and gallerists participate in protests for non-sectarian unity. Beirut’s art community had just assembled for the Home Works event when the protests began on Oct. 17.

The message from the organizers, Ashkal Alwan, postponing the event stated: “Artistic and cultural institutions and initiatives are in no way isolated from broader civic, political, economic, and ideological context but rather shaped as a result of and in response to historical events and their repercussions.”

On Oct. 25 the Beirut Art Center sent out a similar statement: “In solidarity with and participation in the popular uprisings taking place across Lebanon against the current systems of power, we the undersigned cultural organizations and structures collectively commit to Open Strike, and call for our colleagues in the cultural sector to join us.”

Another artistic expression of solidarity is visible at leading Lebanese art dealer Saleh Barakat’s space in the Clemenceau area of Beirut. On Nov. 8 he opened a show featuring an installation by Palestinian Beirut-based artist Abdul Rahman Katanani.

Graffiti by Said Fouad Mahmoud. (Supplied)

A series of temporary abodes made using painted scrap metal and wood, and surrounded by barbed wire — much like the surroundings of the Sabra refugee camp where the artist lives — were stationed throughout the gallery.

Katanani’s immersive and precarious installation, on view until Jan. 4, asks the question: What future awaits Lebanon?

“Many are now trying to figure out a good balance between getting their work done and participating in the public upheaval,” said Basel Dalloul, founder and director of the Dalloul Foundation. “Cultural production in all its forms can and will be one of the economic drivers of a future Lebanon.”

Ayman Baalbaki, one of Lebanon’s most recognized painters, “is not involved in creating art right now,” said Barakat. “He is going to all of the protests and is completely involved in the need for political change.”

The design duo David Raffoul and Nicolas Moussallem, whose studio goes by the name David/Nicolas, said in a statement: “What’s happening today is very important for all of us Lebanese who would like a brighter and honest future where corruption is not surrounding us.

“We are trying to work but it is not easy. Right now we are focused on how we can help our country.

“On the other hand, creativity is stronger because the revolution gives you such a push.

"Most places are closed and open spontaneously. Thank goodness for social media, so that we can show what we are doing to the world.” 

Marwan Sahmarani, a Lebanese painter known for his bold abstract canvases replete with their gestural brushstrokes and vibrant coloring, noted the difficulty of working during a time of turmoil.

“It’s a disturbing moment for everyone,” he said. “There are many feelings, good and bad. I divide my time when needed between my studio and the street. But what do I paint that can be relevant now and not fall into a journalistic rendering of current events?”

Individuals in the creative scene have joined hands in camaraderie to produce several initiatives in solidarity with the protesters. One is Nour Al-Thawra, staged by Sara Beydoun, founder of Lebanese fashion house and social enterprise Sara’s Bag, and her friend Mariana Wehbe.

On the evening of Nov. 6, a group of Lebanese women gathered in Martyrs' Square, each carrying a lighted candle. “Let’s light a candle for the strength we have shown and the resilience that will never die,” wrote Beydoun on her Instagram account. “Bring a candle and your peaceful prayer and let’s combine all of our strengths to light up Martyrs’ Square.”

Beydon told Arab News: “We all want one thing — the Lebanon we dream of.”

Wehbe agreed. “Sarah and I have been on the ground since day one,” she said. “Like every Lebanese woman from this revolution, each one of us is trying to find her way to help, support and move this forward.”

The candle-bearing crowd of women, which the pair turned into a moving video that went viral, was driven by the need to create a “peaceful symbolic prayer.”

“It was a prayer for our country, for our future, for unity, no matter where you come from and what your religious beliefs are,” said Wehbe. “It is a symbol of unity and protection for love, compassion and for our home, Lebanon.”