THE BLOG

In Egypt, You Must Agree With the Military

05/19/2014 02:17 EDT | Updated 07/19/2014 05:59 EDT
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An Egyptian woman waves to soldiers on top of an armoured vehicle guarding the entrance of a military hospital where former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was transferred after his release from prison on August 22, 2013 in Cairo. Mubarak was sent to the military hospital after his release from prison after he was cleared for conditional release while standing trial, an interior ministry general told AFP. He will be held under house arrest at the Cairo hospital on the orders of the prime minister, who has been granted the power to order arrests during the current state of emergency. AFP PHOTO/MARWAN NAAMANI (Photo credit should read MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Last Tuesday, May 13, my brother Mark Nabil had to go through his compulsory medical examination for the military service. He went very early to the army recruitment area in our home town Assiut, in upper Egypt. There were some 200 potential recruits with him that day. After the medical examination ended, they were given a paper poll for the military. This paper led Mark to a 6 hours investigations on Tuesday in Assiut's military intelligence, and again over than 10 hours in the headquarter of the Military Intelligence in Cairo on May 15.

The poll contained five questions: Do you want to join the army? Did the Army support the people's will? Did the army do what's necessary for national security after 30 June 2013? Do you think that the army is a faithful patriot institution? Do you trust that the army will manage to end terrorism in Sinai?

All the two hundred potential recruits marked "approve" in front of all the questions, except for three; Mark and two others. Mark disapproved of all the questions, and the two others disapproved only the point related to the July 3rd coup. Army officers at the site were very furious that someone dared to disapprove with the army role. The three individuals were called and requested with threats to change their answers. Under threats, the other two potential recruits changed their answers and they were let go. Mark on the other side refused to change his answers, and that's how it started.

Officers took him to the office of the military intelligence in the site and investigated him for six hours because of that. They took a list of names of all our family members, especially the ones living abroad. They investigated his politic activism and religious beliefs. Mark told the officer that he doesn't believe in any religion. The officer tried to convince him to believe in God, and when Mark refused, the officer called our father to ask him how he tolerates his atheist son! The officer asked Mark also about my political activism and imprisonment in 2011. They even made him write about my visit to Israel in Dec 2012.

At the end of the six hours, they decided that this isn't enough and that Mark should go on Thursday May 15 to the to the main office of the military intelligence in Cairo for further investigation. The day coincides the International Day for Conscientious Objection, in which pacifist organizations all over the world protest against forced recruitment.

This incident triggered a campaign of threatening calls to Ahmed Hassan, the new leader of No to Compulsory Military Service Movement. Calls come from a secret number telling him to take an example of what happened to Mark and to stop writing about the military. And like Mark, such threats make Ahmed Hassan more energetic defending his cause.

On Thursday 15, Mark arrived on time to the headquarter of the military Intelligence in Rabaa Square in Cairo. They kept him for 10 hours without allowing him to eat anything, and made him spend most of that time either standing in the sun, or detained with other 12 persons in a small room. After that they investigated him in more details about my activism, and the circumstances of my trial in 2011. At the end they notified him to report again on Sunday to Assiut Military area to receive further instructions.

On Sunday, Mark reported again to Assiut recruitment area, and again after keeping him for few hours, they instructed him to come again after 10 days for further instructions. It seems that the army will keep him for a while in a bureaucratic loop as a punishment for daring to disagree with the army's policy.

This situation reminded me with the last North Korean election, in which The Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland led by Kim Jong-un's Workers' Party received 100 per cent of votes with over than 99% turnouts. Theoretically, Kim Jung-un doesn't need more than 50 per cent plus one to win the election. But it's clear that in these totalitarian regimes, it isn't allowed that even one individual disagrees with the government. Everyone has to agree with the opinions of the "big brother," or else. That simply explains why polls in such countries don't worth even the value of the papers they are printed in.