Egyptians from across the political spectrum are fuming at the authorities as video footage of Egyptian soldiers stripping a protester naked and beating him senseless in front of the presidential palace on Friday resonates widely, Arab dailies report in their editions today.
“‘Signed striptease’ irritates Egyptians… And president describes incident as ‘shocking'” reads a headline on the Saudi-owned London-based A-Sharq Al-Awsat, a newspaper known for its strong anti-Muslim Brotherhood leanings. Inside the article’s text, a picture is displayed of 50-year-old Hamada Saber lying on the ground, helpless and naked, right outside President Mohammed Morsi’s presidential police, surrounded by a dozen fully armed riot police officers.
After beating him and covering his body in soot, he was dragged into a police vehicle and taken to jail, the paper reports. Police allege they caught the man carrying 18 Molotov cocktails.
The incident comes at the end of the bloodiest period of Morsi’s seven month rule, in which nearly 60 people were killed in a wave anti-Muslim Brotherhood protests across the country.
Once the video went viral at the weekend, Saber was released and sent to a hospital, with Morsi and his advisers trying to concoct a way to defuse the public’s anger.
The Doha-based media network Al-Jazeera picks up a statement from Morsi’s office saying that “it is shocked that members of the police would deal with a demonstrator in ways that are not consistent with human rights… The institution of the presidency affirms its commitment to activate the clause in the Egyptian constitution prohibiting torture or inducing psychological and physical harm.”
“Destroying the dignity of a citizen adds moral insult to physical cruelty. It can force men to commit suicide because they cannot live with the shame that was brought upon them.”
Commentators are calling the incident the “signed striptease” because it comes two days after leaders of the Egyptian opposition publicly signed a statement renouncing all violence against the regime. Opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood are citing this as proof that the regime doesn’t take their actions seriously and is merely looking for an excuse to smash them with an iron fist.
According to the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the National Salvation Front, the united body of Egyptian opposition parties, is calling on “security forces to exercise maximum restraint.” The forces’ actions, it reports, are driving protesters in Alexandria and Port Said “to demand independence from the Egyptian state.”
The National Salvation Front alleges that “President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood bear responsibility for the anger and tension that has taken over Egyptian society over the past two months…” How so? “Due to the insistence of the president and his group to ignore the legitimate demands of the majority of Egyptian citizens to form a government of national salvation, and to form a committee to amend the constitution written by the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies alone.”
In an op-ed in the Cairo-based daily Al-Masry Al-Youm called “Egypt bared,” Mohammed Salmawy, the president of the Egyptian Writers’ Union, writes that stripping and beating of protesters shows that “the Egyptian political scene is very troubled… Destroying the dignity of a citizen adds moral insult to physical cruelty. It can force men to commit suicide because they cannot live with the shame that was brought upon them.”
Assad’s response to Israeli attack brings shame on Arabs
Syrian Prime Minister Wael Al-Halqi met with Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili in Damascus on Saturday to discuss talks with the Syrian rebel leaders and possible responses to last week’s Israeli air strikes.
The London-based daily Al-Hayat quotes Jalili saying the Israeli attack “is not only aimed at harming the steadfastness of Syria only, but also aims to harm the steadfastness of the axis of resistance and opposition in the whole region.”
Jalili went on to emphasize that this attack proves Israel’s aggressive nature and the threat it poses to regional security and stability. Syria will respond swiftly and harshly, he promised.
While his words, and those of the Syrian government’s spokesmen, may be tough, the Arab street doesn’t buy it, according to Abdel Bari Atwan. To them, claims Atwan, the willingness of the regime of Bashar Assad to plunder its own civilians and strike neighboring Turkey for intervening in Syrian affairs, while refusing to directly launch an assault on Israel, its declared enemy, brings the Arab world nothing but shame.
“This Israeli breakthrough makes all Arabs feel great disappointment. We feel ashamed as Arabs and Muslims to see Israeli planes always bombing destroying convoys. . . nuclear reactors. . . and then we don’t respond once.”
“Assad did not hesitate to strike Turkish reconnaissance aircraft that penetrated Syrian air space, but hasn’t launched one shell at Israeli aircraft that flew over Syria and destroyed actual targets,” writes Atwan, the outgoing editor-in-chief, in Al-Quds Al-Arabi. “This Israeli breakthrough makes all Arabs feel great disappointment. We feel ashamed as Arabs and Muslims to see Israeli planes always bombing destroying convoys… nuclear reactors… and then we don’t respond once.”
“Israel attacked Syria’s sovereignty and dignity, and this attack should not go unnoticed,” Atwan continues. “We have the right to ask how the Israelis would react to Syrian or Lebanese retaliation. Would they destroy Syria? Syria is already destroyed. Would Israel kill thousands of Syrian people? There are already 60,000 martyrs who have fallen so far in this civil war. President Assad’s popularity always rises when he is assaulted by Israel. It will certainly rise exponentially if he strikes back.”