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Exclusive: Deep Divisions Threaten Brotherhood’s Future in Egypt

Exclusive: Deep Divisions Threaten Brotherhood’s Future in Egypt

Monday, 19 August, 2019 - 07:15
Muslim Brotherhood protesters sit-in at Cairo's Rabaa Square in 2013. Asharq Al-Awsat file photo
Cairo - Waleed Abdul Rahman

Six years after the Muslim Brotherhood held massive protests at Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, its youth and leadership are at loggerheads in a sign that the group is disintegrating.

Experts in security affairs and radical movements note that the Rabaa incident marked a turning point at which the organization’s youth lost confidence in its leadership.

“At least 95 percent of Brotherhood youths backed the notion of violence after experiencing the Rabaa events in 2013, and this was evident in sit-ins that occurred in 2014 and 2015,” Egypt-based experts told Asharq Al-Awsat, confirming that “they now feel betrayed by Brotherhood leaders who are living abroad.”

Authorities broke up the two sit-ins - at al-Nahda and Rabaa squares - in August 2013.

Leaders who sought political asylum in Turkey and Qatar are now seen as corrupt and are believed to have turned their backs on the movement’s wider base in exchange for money they are receiving abroad.

Experts also pointed to “Brotherhood leaders abroad viewing youth in the scope of subjective affiliation and not official membership, despite the noose being tightened against them abroad.”

Labeling the group’s youth conditions as tragic, experts confirmed that it was a clear and significant case for abandonment and linked it to the leadership’s withdrawal in terms of calling for violence and protests in commemoration of the Rabaa sit-ins.

Speaking about ailing divisions and disappointment festering within the group, Egypt-based researcher Ahmad Zaghloul said: “Brotherhood youth are still angry with the organization's leaders--because they wanted a violent response in memory of the disbanding of Rabaa and Ennahda protests-- and feel stunted by the leadership’s passivity.”

At the time, the organization’s leadership was represented by Mahmoud Ezzat, who did not support bloodshed but permitted vandalism; this often led to armed clashes at anti-government riots involving Egyptian youth who pledged allegiance to the group.

Soon after the 2013 violence breakout, Mohamed Kamal took over the helm from Ezzat and founded and empowered the Brotherhood’s armed wing. The shift in the group’s leadership from Ezzat to Kamal, according to Zaghloul, was a key trigger for ensuing violence in 2014 and 2015.

Violence staged by Brotherhood followers during the riots included the burning down of churches, sabotage of police stations, the killing of innocents and breaking convicts and wanted suspects in custody out of jail.

Security expert and strategist Major General Kamal al-Maghrabi stressed that “the bellicose tone used by Brotherhood leadership abroad is now worthless,” adding that “what led to Brotherhood young fugitives to take to social media against the group’s leaders is total panic and fears of abandonment.”

As for Brotherhood youths who remain in Egypt, whether free or in jail, Zaghloul warned that they are ailed by psychological and social burdens.

“Whether sitting in a jail cell or free to wander around, they are suffering in terms of reintegrating into the Egyptian society, especially those who were completely radicalized and are calling for violence and incitement,” he said.

Zaghloul also noted that radicalized youth may resort to staging lone wolf attacks out of frustration.

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