CAIRO, Egypt– Egypt experienced a wave of terrorist attacks last week with the assassination of prosecutor general Hisham Barakat in Cairo and the simultaneous attacks that killed 17 Egyptian soldiers in north Sinai. Egypt is on the forefront fighting the war against terrorism and the underlining message from the people here is that they are determined to defeat those who take innocent life and want to see justice done against the perpetrators of violence.
In conversation this week with Mostafa el-Gindy, a senior Egyptian Statesmen, he told the Council on Global Security (CGS) that Egypt’s fight against Islamist terrorism is a fight on behalf of the entire world. “We are fighting for you [America], we are fighting for Europe, we are fighting for the civilized nation. If we do not win this war, the whole world will pay the bill.”
“You have to support Egypt,” he said. “I remember President Bush when he said after 9-11, that you are either with us, or you are with the terrorists. Today, I am telling America, President Obama, you are either with us, or you are with terrorists.”
He said that Egypt needs America’s help in fighting terrorism. “We need your help if you are really fighting against terrorism. We need your technology, the West has the technology to deal with this,” he explained, while noting also that 90% of national security is a phone call from the average Egyptian citizen. “The nation now is going to be part of the war,” he said.
“Go on your phone and call, call the police, even if it is your brother. Call the police,” he said. “The question each citizen needs to ask is, “what should I do?”
He told the story of the recent attack in Luxor in June, where a police officer was killed. A taxi driver who noticed suspicious activity notified the police and the police were able to thwart the terrorists from detonating explosives in a highly visited tourist area that would have killed many innocent civilians had he not acted.
“His courage and bravery saved the lives of many tourists and civilians,” he stated, referring to the taxi driver.
“It is important that the people in Egypt do their work in this war. We have to share in the responsibilities with the army and police. The people need to use their eyes and ears to help the authorities,” he said.
Mr. Abdel Kader Mohammed Farid, Vice President of the Egyptian Center for Combating Terrorism, told the Council on Global Security (CGS) that the Egyptian people are pressuring President Sisi and the government to do more to bring justice against the perpetrators of violence.
“We are asking the government to do more to bring swift justice, what they are doing is not enough,” he said. “The Muslim Brotherhood are killing people on a daily basis, innocent people, and it is taking us 5 years for a court trial… this is not enough.”
He continued, “We, Egyptians, give the President the power of attorney to do what we want, the Egyptian people. This is our agreement with him, this is why we selected him as our president to serve the people of Egypt.”
“We think he [President Sisi] is very kind and needs to be more aggressive,” he said. “President Sisi is representing the voice of the people.”
The Muslim Brotherhood is targeting people and threatening them with violence, he added, explaining this with a personal story of how, shortly after he gave an interview on Egyptian TV, his car was broken into with a note that said, “Next time it will be exploded, the whole car together with you.”
“They are trying to scare everybody, we are not afraid and we don’t care,” he said. “If the whole world is not united and committed to stopping the Muslim Brotherhood and Daesh, we will all be in very big danger.”
The threats have not stopped Egyptians from being willing to fight, he added. “When the rumors came out that Daesh was in the Sinai, taking over Sheikh Zuweid, we came out and said ‘just give us orders and we will go to Sinai to fight.’”
Another local Egyptian told CGS that 1,000 officers demanded to be transferred from their units in Cairo, Alexandria and elsewhere to be transferred to the war zone in north Sinai to fight for Egypt.
In conversation with Dr. Moataz Abdel Fattah, a professor at American University, the difference between how America and Egypt perceive the Muslim Brotherhood surfaced as a prominent source of tension. “Here in Egypt we view the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization,” he stated.
During a recent visit to the United States, he said he witnessed first-hand how the Muslim Brotherhood has a platform in DC. He stated, “They managed to play the game of victimization mainly because of the violence used against them in Egypt, as a reaction to their three dimension strategy of weakening the state, depleting society and removing the authority or changing the authority.”
“I was surprised to find how some Americans are fooled by the Muslim Brotherhood’s discourse that projects them as victims, and the rest of the Egyptian people and State as perpetrators of violence,” he said.
He continued, “The Muslim Brotherhood are a catchy brand without any useful product. They are a brand without a product. They talk Islam, but they don’t abide by the teaching of Islam when it comes to politics. That’s why once Egyptians found out they were fooled by political promises of the Muslim Brotherhood, they rebelled against them.”
Since the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, Egypt has faced a wave of terror attacks that have killed over 600 Egyptian military and police. Egypt continues to be on the forefront fighting the global war on terrorism but continues to remain stable. The latest attack in the Sinai was a defeat to Islamic State, prevented from gaining any territory in Egypt– unlike they have been able to do in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Egypt needs the support of the international community in their fight against terrorism.
Tera Dahl is Executive Director of the Council on Global Security.