CAIRO: The Alexandria Court for Urgent Affairs presided by Judge Maged Abu el-Seoud postponed a session on a case seeking to criminalize the use of the phrase, “Down down with the military regime,” to with a final verdict scheduled for Nov. 25, Youm7 reported Wednesday.
The lawsuit was filed by lawyer Tarek Mahmoud, who is also the Secretary-General of the “Long Live Egypt Fund” and a leading member of a campaign called ‘Fighting the Brotherhoodization of the State,’ which describes the worry that the Muslim Brotherhood might still be trying to take over.
“The point of my claim is to prevent fights between the people and the army and put end to offenses to the military institution,” Mahmoud told Reuter’s Aswat Masriya Oct. 21.
“Down down with the military regime” was a popular revolutionary chant since the January 25 Revolution, and was heavily used under the temporary rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in 2011 after Hosni Mubarak’s downfall, to be repeated in 2013 following the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi during what some have labeled the “return of the military rule,” led by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.
The second event in particular, followed by the Rabaa dispersal in which more than 600 people died, revealed a division in the society between strict Sisi supporters and harsh opponents, who have continued to use the slogan.
The phrase in Arabic uses the word “askar” which according to journalist Farouk Ibrahim derives from the Turkish word “askeri” and translates into soldier, but has historically had a negative connotation because it was commonly used to refer to mercenaries.
“The Egyptian soldier defends and protects the borders of his homeland, and whoever describes him as an ‘askar’ reflects ignorance, betrays his homeland and suggests that the country is in the hand of mercenaries,” Farouk argued in an article published on the official website of the State Information Service (SIS) on Jan. 18, 2014.
Sisi echoed this sentiment before he was elected president, in a televised interview with CBC Channel in May, when TV host Ibrahim Eissa used the word “askar” in a question.
“I will not allow you to use the word ‘askar’, because the army has never failed the Egyptian people, and anyway the word should be interpreted within the context it’s used in, and it is being used as an offense, isn’t it?” Sisi stated.
After his interview with Sisi, Eissa had explained in a live talk show program on ONtv Live channel that he had considered Sisi’ reaction “over-sensitive” but that he was entitled to his opinion. “Besides, I was only reporting to him a word popularly used,” Eissa said adding: “What I am allowed or forbidden to say is determined by the law, not by Sisi nor by any other future president.”
Naturally, activists and social media users mocked the case, as some April 6 Youth supporters wrote on Facebook Wednesday: “If the slogan is banned, people will be able to directly say ‘down with the Sisi regime.’”