wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
99CAIRO2104 1999-03-16 16:22:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
Cable title:  

EGYPT'S MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD AT LOW EBB

Tags:   PINS PTER PGOV PREL KISL PHUM ECON EG 
pdf how-to read a cable
P 161622Z MAR 99
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2259
INFO ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
ISLAMIC CONFERENCE COLLECTIVE
SECDEF WASHDC
USIA WASHDC 3645
USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL
AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 CAIRO 002104 

LONDON FOR SUTPHIN, PARIS FOR LEAF

E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/11/09
TAGS: PINS PTER PGOV PREL KISL PHUM ECON EG
SUBJECT: EGYPT'S MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD AT LOW EBB

REF: 98 CAIRO 8147



1. (U) CLASSIFIED BY ECONOMIC-POLITICAL MINISTER
COUNSELOR RICHARD LEBARON FOR REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (D).



--------------------------


SUMMARY


--------------------------





2. (C) SINCE 1995, WHEN THE GOVERNMENT SHUT DOWN
PROFESSIONAL SYNDICATES CONTROLLED BY THE MUSLIM
BROTHERHOOD AND ARRESTED THEIR ACTIVISTS, THE
BROTHERHOOD HAS REMAINED QUIET, ISSUING ONLY AN
OCCASIONAL PUBLIC STATEMENT ON FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES.
BUT THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT MOLLIFIED. IT EMBARKS ON
CAMPAIGNS OF ARRESTS OF MB MEMBERS, AND PUBLICIZES THE
ARRESTS, IN ORDER TO PREVENT AND DETER MB ACTIVISM IN
THE RUN-UP TO NATION-WIDE ELECTIONS. AFTER RELEASING
LAST YEAR A GROUP OF 31 MB ACTIVISTS FROM THE 1995
ROUND-UPS, THE GOVERNMENT HAS ARRESTED ANOTHER 110
SINCE LAST AUGUST. THE ARRESTS WILL LIKELY CONTINUE AS
THE COUNTRY PREPARES FOR THE OCTOBER 1999 PRESIDENTIAL
REFERENDUM ON MUBARAK'S FOURTH TERM.



3. (C) THE MB IS FURTHER PLAGUED BY INTERNAL DIVISIONS
ALONG GENERATIONAL LINES, WITH THE YOUNGER ACTIVISTS
(THE TARGETS OF THE GOE ARRESTS) WANTING A GREATER ROLE
IN THE DECISION-MAKING, AND BY THE EGYPTIAN MB'S
WEAKENING TIES WITH SISTER ORGANIZATIONS IN OTHER ARAB
COUNTRIES. DESPITE THESE WEAKNESSES, THE MB REMAINS
EGYPT'S LARGEST AND BEST ORGANIZED OPPOSITION MOVEMENT.
OUR MB CONTACTS COMPLAIN OF THE SECURITY CRACKDOWNS,
DENY ANY LINKS WITH ISLAMIST TERROR GROUPS AND PROFESS
THEIR COMMITMENT TO DEMOCRATIC POLICIES AND PRACTICES.
WE SHOULD HAVE NO ILLUSIONS ON THE LAST POINT. IN THE
MB IDEOLOGY, GOD'S LAW TRUMPS DEMOCRACY, AND GOD'S LAW
AS THEY INTERPRET IT DOES NOT FAVOR HERETICAL VIEWS,
WOMEN'S PARTICIPATION IN GOVERNMENT, OR EQUAL RIGHTS
FOR NON-MUSLIMS IN AN ISLAMIC SOCIETY. END SUMMARY.



--------------------------


MB INTERNAL STRUCTURE


--------------------------





4. (C) ACCORDING TO EGYPTIAN EXPERTS ON THE MUSLIM
BROTHERHOOD, THE MB HAS TWO GOVERNING BODIES IN EGYPT.
THE "GUIDANCE BUREAU" OF 14 OFFICIALS RUNS DAY-TO-DAY
AFFAIRS. ITS CURRENT SUPREME GUIDE (MUSTAFA MASHOUR)
HAS TWO DEPUTIES: ONE (MA'MOUN AL-HODEIBY) SERVES AS
SPOKESMAN AND IS RESPONSIBLE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS,
WHILE THE OTHER (A SYRIAN NAMED HASAN HOWEIDY WHO HAS
LIVED IN EGYPT SINCE THE EARLY 1980'S) LIASES WITH MB
BRANCHES IN OTHER ARAB COUNTRIES. THE GUIDANCE BUREAU
INCLUDES THOSE IN CHARGE OF SYNDICATES, UNIVERSITIES,
FAMILIES, AND OTHERS IN CONTACT WITH THE INTERNATIONAL
COMMUNITY. THE MB'S LEADERSHIP IN EGYPT, WHERE THE
GROUP WAS FOUNDED IN 1927 AND FIRST BECAME POPULAR,
REMAINS IN THEORY ALSO THE LEADERSHIP OF THE
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION, ALTHOUGH IN PRACTICE THE
BRANCHES ELSEWHERE HAVE BECOME DE FACTO INDEPENDENT.
MB CONTACTS HERE SAY THE OTHER BRANCHES HAVE BY
NECESSITY EVOLVED SEPARATELY GIVEN THE DIFFERING
CIRCUMSTANCES IN EACH COUNTRY. NEVERTHLESS, THE OTHERS
"COORDINATE" WITH THE MOTHER ORGANIZATION IN CAIRO, AND
AT THE TOP OF THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION THE
SUPREME GUIDE IS ALWAYS AN EGYPTIAN. MB SOURCES HERE
NOTE THAT MANY OF THE OTHER MB GROUPS OPERATE IN A
FREER ENVIRONEMENT, PARTICULARLY THE ONE IN JORDAN.
THEY INCLUDE, IN ADDITION TO JORDANIAN AND SYRIAN MB,
YEMEN'S ISLAH PARTY, PALESTINIAN HAMAS, AND ALGERIAN
HAMAS AS MB AFFILIATES.



5. (C) THE OTHER GOVERNING BODY IS A "SHURA COUNCIL" OF
38 MEMBERS, WHICH MEETS PERIODICALLY TO REVIEW REPORTS
FROM THE GUIDANCE BUREAU AND SETS OVERALL POLICY. IT
INCLUDES A MINORITY OF NON-EGYPTIAN MEMBERS. IN THEORY
IT ELECTS THE BUREAU OFFICIALS, INCLUDING THE SUPREME
GUIDE WHO COMES UP FOR ELECTION EVERY SIX YEARS. BUT
IN PRACTICE, MUSTAFA MASHOUR WAS CHOSEN AS SUPREME
GUIDE IN 1995 WITHOUT ELECTIONS. THE GUIDANCE BUREAU
SELECTED MASHOUR BECAUSE, AT 74 YEARS OF AGE, HE WAS
THE SENIOR MEMBER OF THE MB'S FOUNDING GENERATION,
ACCORDING TO OUR MB SOURCES. THE MB IS SUPPOSED TO
HOLD ELECTIONS FOR THE SHURA COUNCIL AT THE PROVINCIAL
LEVEL (IN EGYPT) AND NATIONAL LEVEL (FOR THE OTHER ARAB
BRANCHES), BUT MB MEMBERS HAVE TOLD US THAT IT HAS
POSTPONED SHURA ELECTIONS IN EGYPT FOR SEVERAL YEARS
BECAUSE OF GOVERNMENT SECURITY PRESSURE.



--------------------------


MB THEORY AND PRACTICE: NO ILLUSIONS


--------------------------





6. (C) THE MB PRESENTS ITSELF TO BOTH WESTERNERS AND
EGYPTIANS AS COMMITTED TO DEMOCRACY, INCLUDING
INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS SUCH AS FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. OUR
MB INTERLOCUTORS STRESS THAT THE ORGANIZATION WANTS TO
REFORM EGYPT'S CURRENT SYSTEM (TERMED SOMEWHAT CORRUPT
AND INCOMPLETELY ISLAMIC) GRADUALLY BY WORKING THROUGH
GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY. THEY SAY AN MB GOVERNMENT WOULD
WILLINGLY CEDE POWER IF, ONCE ELECTED TO OFFICE, IT
WERE SUBSEQUENTLY TO LOSE AN ELECTION. IN FACT, MB
SHURA COUNCIL MEMBER (AND JOURNALIST SYNDICATE BOARD
MEMBER) SALAH ABDEL MAQSUD TOLD US THAT THE MB PREFERS
NOT TO BE IN POWER, BUT INSTEAD SEEKS TO INFLUENCE THE
GOVERNMENT TO ADOPT COMPLETELY ISLAMIC POLICIES. HE
CITES MB FOUNDER HASAN AL-BANNA WHO REPORTEDLY SAID,
WHEN ASKED, THAT HE DIDN'T WANT TO BE PRESIDENT OF
EGYPT, HE JUST WANTED THE PRESIDENT TO IMPLEMENT AN
ISLAMIC PROGRAM. WE RECENTLY OBSERVED AN MB
PRESENTATION TO A SECULAR EGYPTIAN AUDIENCE, DURING A
REGULAR WEEKLY GATHERING HOSTED BY A LOCAL NGO. THE
SPEAKER CAREFULLY PITCHED A NATIONALISTIC RATHER THAN
RELIGIOUS APPEAL, STRESSING THAT EGYPT'S ACHIEVEMENTS,
WHETHER IN THE ECONOMY OR FOREIGN POLICY OR BUILDING
INFRASTRUCTURE, ARE ACHIEVEMENTS FOR ISLAM, SINCE EGYPT
IS AN ISLAMIC COUNTRY. WE ARE FOR EVERYTHING THAT
MAKES EGYPT STRONG, HE CONCLUDED.



7. (C) ON THE OTHER HAND, EXAMINATION OF SPECIFIC MB
PRACTICES AND POLICIES BELIES THIS STATED COMMITMENT TO
DEMOCRATIC NORMS. AS THE FOLLOWING EXAMPLES ILLUSTRATE,
DEMOCRACY IS FINE AS LONG AS IT IS CONSISTENT WITH
GOD'S LAW, BUT GOD'S LAW AS INTERPRETED BY THE MB
TRUMPS ALL.

-- FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: MB SPOKESMAN HODEIBY AND
OTHER MB FIGURES WERE IN THE FOREFRONT OF THE 1995
CAMPAIGN TO DECLARE CAIRO UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR NASR ABU
ZEID AN "APOSTATE" FOR HIS WRITINGS ON MODERN
INTERPRETATIONS OF ISLAM. IN ADDITION, MB MEMBERS IN
THE PROFESSIONAL SYNDICATES FAVOR SYNDICATE
DISCIPLINARY EFFORTS (E.G. STRIPPING OF PROFESSIONAL
CREDENTIALS) FOR MEMBERS WHO ADVOCATE GREATER CONTACTS
WITH ISRAELIS. THE MB'S PROFESSED INTEREST IN FREEDOM
OF EXPRESSION REMAINS LIMITED TO ITS ABILITY TO FURTHER
ITS OWN IDEOLOGY.

-- WOMEN'S RIGHTS: WOMEN CAN IN THEORY VOTE IN THE MB
SHURA ELECTIONS AND STAND FOR ELECTION. IN PRACTICE,
ACCORDING TO MB SOURCES, WOMEN HAVE NEVER PARTICIPATED
IN EITHER THE SHURA OR GUIDANCE OFFICE (WE UNDERSTAND,
HOWEVER, THAT IN THE YEMEN AND JORDAN MB, A FEW WOMEN
HAVE JOINED THE NATIONAL-LEVEL SHURA COUNCILS.) THE
ONLY EVEN SEMI-PROMINENT MB WOMAN RECALLED BY OUR
INTERLOCUTORS IN EGYPT IS ZEINAB AL-GHAZZALI (DAUGHTER
OF THE LATE MB SHEIKH MUHAMMAD AL-GHAZZALI). SHE
HOLDS NO OFFICIAL POSITION IN THE MB.

--ATTITUDE TOWARDS ISRAEL: DESPITE ITS STATED
ADHERENCE TO NON-VIOLENT SOLUTIONS, THE MB HAS NOT
ACCEPTED THE EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT'S PEACE TREATY WITH
ISRAEL. IT CALLS FOR ARMED STRUGGLE TO LIBERATE
JERUSALEM AND THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES. ITS PUBLIC
STATEMENTS ON THIS ISSUE HAVE INCREASINGLY CRITICIZED
THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY AND SUPPORTED HAMAS. FOR
INSTANCE, THE MB STATEMENT AFTER THE WYE RIVER
AGREEMENT (AS PUBLISHED IN THE OPPOSITION AL-SHAAB
NEWSPAPER OF OCTOBER 27) CONDEMNED THE PA'S ARRESTS OF
ISLAMISTS IN GAZA AND CALLED THE PA "A TOOL FOR
SUPPRESSING THE PALESTINIANS, WHICH MAY LEAD TO CIVIL
WAR." INSIDE EGYPT, THE MB STRONGLY REJECTS ANY
NORMALIZATION WITH ISRAELIS AS NOTED ABOVE. LEADER OF
THE MB SPLINTER WASAT GROUP ABUL ELA AL-MADI TOLD US
"NORMALIZATION" SHOULD MEAN NO ISRAEL SINCE
ELIMINATION OF THAT "ARTIFICIAL ENTITY" WOULD BE FOR
HIM THE "NORMAL" CONDITION.

-- POSITION OF MINORITIES: THE MOST FAMOUS LIVING MB
SCHOLAR IS YUSUF AL-QARDAWI, AN EGYPTIAN NOW LIVING IN
QATAR, CONSIDERED BY SOME WESTERN SCHOLARS TO BE A
MODERATE IN THE FUNDAMENTALIST SPECTRUM. NEVERTHELESS,
THE QARDAWI WHOSE BOOKS AND TAPED LECTURES WE FIND IN
CAIRO IS NO MODERATE. FOR INSTANCE, HE SUPPORTS RE-
IMPOSING THE TRADITIONAL ISLAMIC TAX ON NON-MUSLIMS
LIVING IN AN ISLAMIC COUNTRY (CALLED THE "JIZYA" TAX).
HIS BOOK "NON-MUSLIMS IN ISLAMIC COUNTRIES" COMMENTS
CRITICALLY ON THE EMPHASIS PLACED BY SOME ARAB
GOVERNMENTS (READ THE GOE) ON INTERFAITH TOLERANCE,
MISPLACED IN QARDAWI'S EYES TO THE EXTENT THAT IT
CONFLICTS WITH GOD'S LAW. QARDAWI WRITES: "IT IS NOT
TOLERANCE TO FORCE MUSLIMS TO ABANDON GOD'S LAW FOR THE
SAKE OF SPARING THE FEELINGS OF NON-MUSLIM MINORITIES.
WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY A CHRISTIAN OR JEW SHOULD BE
OFFENDED BY THE AMPUTATION OF A THIEF'S HAND, OR THE
FLOGGING OF SLANDERERS, ADULTERERS OR DRUNKS... A
MUSLIM OBEYS THESE RULES AS AN ACT OF WORSHIP, WHILE A
NON-MUSLIM, WHO DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THEIR DIVINE NATURE,
SHOULD TAKE THEM TO BE MERELY THE CRIMINAL LAW OF THE
LAND ADOPTED BY THE MAJORITY." SUPREME GUIDE MASHOUR,
IN A 1997 AL-AHRAM INTERVIEW, LIKEWISE SUPPORTED
IMPOSING THE JIZYA TAX ON EGYPT'S COPTIC MINORITY
(THOUGH HE LATER DENIED MAKING THE REMARKS).



--------------------------



--------------------------


PROFESSIONAL SYNDICATES - THE LOST MB STRONGHOLDS STAY
QUIET


--------------------------



--------------------------





8. (C) SOME EGYPTIAN OBSERVERS OF THE MB AGREE THAT
WHILE ITS PRACTICES ARE NOT DEMOCRATIC, THE MB'S
YOUNGER GENERATION MAY OVER TIME GAIN POLITICAL
EXPERIENCE AND EVOLVE AWAY FROM THEOCRATIC THEORY
TOWARDS A MORE PRACTICAL ACCEPTANCE OF POLITICS IN A
SECULAR STATE (ALONG THE LINES, SAY THESE OBSERVERS, OF
CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTIES IN WESTERN EUROPE). IN
SUPPORT OF THIS ARGUMENT, THESE OBSERVERS POINT
PARTICULARLY TO THE MB'S EXPERIENCE OF RUNNING SEVERAL
OF EGYPT'S PROFESSIONAL SYNDICATES FROM 1992-95. THEY
CITE THIS AS AN EXAMPLE OF THE MB'S POTENTIAL
DEMOCRATIC TENDENCIES AND ACTUAL COALITION BUILDING
ABILITIES. PROFESSIONAL SYNDICATES HAVE BEEN AN
IMPORTANT NON-GOVERNMENTAL INSTITUTION IN EGYPTIAN
PUBLIC LIFE SINCE THE 1920'S. WHILE THEIR TRADITIONAL
FOCUS WAS ON REGULATING PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS AND
PROVIDING MEMBER SERVICES, THE SYNDICATES HAVE ALWAYS
BEEN A FORUM TO DISCUSS POLITICAL ISSUES. IN NASSER'S
ERA THEY WERE USED POLITICALLY TO RALLY "POPULAR"
SUPPORT FOR GOVERNMENTAL PROGRAMS. UNDER SADAT, THEY
WERE A REFUGE FOR LEFTIST CRITICS OF THE REGIME. IN
ADDITION, THE SYNDICATES ARE OFTEN A STEPPING STONE TO
A POLITICAL CAREER FOR GOVERNMENT-APPROVED CANDIDATES
(E.G., FORMER PRIME MINISTER MUSTAFA KHALIL ROSE UP
THROUGH THE ENGINEERS SYNDICATE).



9. (C) IN THE LATE 1980'S AND EARLY 1990'S THE MB USED
ITS ORGANIZATIONAL AND FINANCIAL ABILITIES TO GET OUT
ITS VOTE IN SYNDICATE BOARD ELECTIONS. SINCE
SYNDICATE MEMBERS MUST CAST BALLOTS EITHER IN CAIRO
SYNDICATE HEADQUARTERS, OR IN CAPITALS OF REGIONAL
PROVINCES, THE MB BUSSED IN THEIR SYNDICATE MEMBERS AND
OTHER SYMPATHIZERS FROM THE PROVINCES ON ELECTION DAY.
SYNDICATE MEMBERS MUST PAY DUES, AND ANOTHER MB
TECHNIQUE OF THE TIME WAS TO AGREE TO PAY A MEMBER'S
DUES IN EXCHANGE FOR A PRO-MB VOTE IN THE SYNDICATE
ELECTIONS. THE RESULT: THE MB CAPTURED PLURALITIES OF
THE GOVERNING BOARDS OF THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS SYNDICATES
- THE LAWYERS, ENGINEERS, DOCTORS, AND PHARMACISTS. THE
MB CONTROLLED THE SYNDICATES BY SUPPORTING A NEUTRAL OR
PRO-GOVERNMENT CANDIDATE FOR THE TOP POSITION, WHILE
KEEPING THE DAY-TO-DAY MANAGEMENT POSITIONS AND RUNNING
THE SYNDICATES THROUGH COALITIONS WITH OTHER OPPOSITION
AND INDEPENDENT FIGURES.



10. (C) AFTER THE MB GAINED CONTROL OF THE SYNDICATES,
THE GOE RESPONDED FIRST BY CHANGING THE SYNDICATE
ELECTION LAWS IN 1992 TO REQUIRE SUPER MAJORITIES, AND
THEN IN LATE 1995 BY ABOLISHING THE MB-RUN BOARDS OF
SEVERAL SYNDICATES AND REPLACING THEM WITH GOE-
APPOINTED GUARDIANS. THE GUARDIANS ARE SUPPOSED TO
TEMPORARILY LOOK AFTER SYNDICATE AFFAIRS AND PREPARE
FOR NEW ELECTIONS. IN JUSTIFYING THESE MOVES, THE GOE
MADE TWO CLAIMS: THE MB EMBEZZLED SYNDICATE FUNDS, AND
THE MB WAS USING THE SYNDICATES TO PROMOTE THEIR OWN
POLITICAL AGENDA. AHMAD SEIF AL-ISLAM HASSAN AL-BANNA,
SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE LAWYERS SYNDICATE DURING THE
PERIOD OF MB CONTROL (AND SON OF THE MB FOUNDER),
ADMITTED TO US THERE WERE SOME FINANCIAL ERRORS MADE
DURING THE MB TENURE, BUT HE VEHEMENTLY DENIED THAT
THIS JUSTIFIED THE GOE SHUTTING DOWN THE INDEDEPENDENT
SYNDICATES. THE ONLY FINANCIAL DETAILS CITED TO US IN
MEETINGS WITH SYNDICATE MEMBERS ARE THAT SOME SYNDICATE
CONTRACTS (PRINTING LEAFLETS OR ARRANGING SYNDICATE
MEMBER TRAVEL) WERE GIVEN TO COMPANIES OWNED BY MB
MEMBERS. THE MORE SERIOUS CHARGE IS THAT THE
SYNDICATES BECAME MB POLITICAL PLATFORMS. AS NOTED
ABOVE, SYNDICATES HAVE ALWAYS HAD A POLITICAL VOICE,
BUT THIS VOICE APPARENTLY BECAME INTOLERABLY ANTI-
REGIME DURING THE PERIOD OF MB CONTROL. HAMDI SAYYID,
CURRENT PRESIDENT OF THE DOCTORS SYNDICATE AND RULING
PARTY MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, DETAILED FOR US HOW
POLITICS (E.G., BOSNIA OR THE GOE COUNTER-TERROR
CAMPAIGN) BECAME THE DOCTORS' OVERRIDING ISSUES DURING
THE MB TENURE, TO THE NEGLECT OF PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS
AND MEMBER SERVICES.



11. (C) SINCE 1995, THE SYNDICATES HAVE GROWN QUIET,
HOLDING ONLY THE OCCASIONAL SMALL-SCALE PROTESTS OF
U.S. POLICY DURING IRAQ CRISES. THE TWO MOST
POLITICALLY VOCAL DURING THE MB TENURE - THE LAWYERS
AND ENGINEERS - REMAIN UNDER GOE GUARDIANSHIP, WITH NO
DATES YET FOR FOR NEW BOARD ELECTIONS. SPECULATION ON
IMMINENT LAWYERS SYNDICATE ELECTIONS HAS CIRCULATED IN
THE PRESS AND AMONG LAWYERS FOR MONTHS. THE
GOVERNMENTAL FRONT-RUNNER, RAGA'I ATIYAH (MUBARAK
FAMILY PERSONAL LAWYER), IS RUMORED TO HAVE FORMED A
COALITION WITH THE MB LAWYERS WHEREBY THEY WILL SUPPORT
HIM FOR PRESIDENT IN EXCHANGE FOR THE GOE'S ALLOWING
THE MB A CERTAIN SPECIFIED NUMBER OF SEATS ON THE
BOARD. WAFD PARTY COMPETITORS TOLD US THIS RUMORED
COALITION FELL APART WHEN, AT A RECENT JOINT MEETING OF
THE ATIYAH BACKERS AND MB LAWYERS, IT BECAME CLEAR TO
THE GOE SECURITY SERVICES THAT THE MB WOULD DOMINATE
THIS COALITION. THE LATEST WORD IS THAT LAWYERS
SYNDICATE ELECTIONS MUST WAIT UNTIL AFTER THE OCTOBER
1999 REFERENDUM ON MUBARAK'S FOURTH TERM.



--------------------------



--------------------------


THE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE: QUIET ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH


--------------------------



--------------------------





12. (U) IN 1995, WHILE THE GOVERNMENT WAS SHUTTING DOWN
THE MB-CONTROLLED SYNDICATES, IT ALSO ARRESTED SEVERAL
HUNDRED MB MEMBERS FROM SYNDICATES AND UNIVERSITIES,
BUNDLING 82 OF THEM THROUGH EXPEDITED TRIALS IN THE
MILITARY COURT SYSTEM. THE MAIN CHARGES WERE BELONGING
TO A BANNED GROUP (THE MB IS NOT A LEGAL ENTITY IN
EGYPT) AND WORKING AGAINST THE SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT.
IN ADDITION, THE GOVERNMENT CHARGED MANY WITH CONTACTS
WITH "JIHAD" AND "ISLAMIC GROUP" TERRORIST
ORGANIZATIONS (THUS FURTHER JUSTIFYING THE RESORT TO
THE MILITARY COURTS ON NATIONAL SECURITY GROUNDS). IN
THE FIRST OF TWO TRIALS IN NOVEMBER 1995, 31 MB MEMBERS
WERE SENTENCED TO THREE YEARS IN PRISON, THREE OTHERS
WERE SENTENCED TO FIVE YEARS AND 15 WERE ACQUITTED
(CASE NO. 95/8). IN THE OTHER CASE, 17 WERE SENTENCED
TO THREE YEARS IN PRISON AND THREE MORE TO FIVE YEARS,
WITH 13 ACQUITTALS (CASE NO. 95/11).



13. (U) A NEW GOVERNMENT CAMPAIGN OF MB ARRESTS BEGAN
SEVEN MONTHS AGO, WITH A TOTAL OF 110 SUSPECTED MB
MEMBERS ARRESTED TO DATE, ACCORDING TO PRESS REPORTS.
THOSE ARRESTED ARE BEING HELD IN DETENTION WITHOUT
TRIAL, WHICH IS ALLOWED FOR PERIODS OF UP TO SIX MONTHS
UNDER THE POST-1981 EMERGENCY LAWS (THOUGH IN PRACTICE
SUCH DETENTION CAN OCCUR FOR YEARS). THE CAMPAIGN IS
NATION-WIDE THOUGH FOCUSED ON MB CENTERS IN THE DELTA,
CAIRO AND ALEXANDRIA: IN THE DELTA PROVINCE OF KAFR
AL-SHEIKH, 16 PERSONS WERE ARRESTED BETWEEN AUGUST AND
OCTOBER (ALL BUT ONE WERE RECENTLY RELEASED); IN
ALEXANDRIA, 11 WERE ARRESTED IN OCTOBER AND ANOTHER
NINE IN FEBRUARY; IN GIZA, FIVE WERE ARRESTED IN
FEBRUARY. THE EGYPTIAN ORGANIZATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
(EOHR) HAS COMPILED DATA ON THESE RECENT ARRESTEES,
GATHERING TESTIMONY AND ALLEGING INCIDENTS OF TORTURE
AND MALTREATMENT BY THE STATE SECURITY FORCES DURING
THE INTERROGATIONS. AT THE SAME TIME, THE GOE HAS
RELEASED ALL OF THE 48 MB MEMBERS SENTENCED IN NOVEMBER
1995 TO THREE-YEAR PRISON TERMS.



14. (U) THE EOHR REPORT PROVIDES NAMES, AGES, AND
OCCUPATIONS OF THE RECENT ARRESTEES. THE CONSISTENT
PATTERN IS MIDDLE-INCOME MEN BETWEEN 30 TO 45 YEARS OF
AGE (PROFESSIONALS, HIGHER SALARIED LOCAL GOVERNMENT
EMPLOYEES, MERCHANTS). THUS FAR, WE HAVE SPOTTED AMONG
THE NEW ARRESTEES ONLY TWO FROM THE GROUP CONVICTED IN
1995 AND RELEASED IN 1998. THEY ARE PROMINENT MB
ACTIVISTS IBRAHIM AL-ZAAFARANI (SECRETARY GENERAL OF
THE ALEXANDRIA CHAPTER OF THE DOCTORS SYNDICATE) AND
MUHAMMAD TAHA WAHDAN (PROFESSOR OF COMMERCE AT
ISMAILIYYA UNIVERSITY). ZAAFARANI HAS BEEN RE-ARRESTED
AND RELEASED FROM DETENTION SEVERAL TIMES SINCE HIS
THREE-YEAR PRISON TERM ENDED IN JANUARY 1998.



15. (C) OBSERVERS HERE INTERPRET THESE ARRESTS AS THE
GOE'S ONGOING EFFORTS TO DETER MB ACTIVISM PRIOR TO
UPCOMING ELECTIONS. THE LAST MAJOR ROUND-UP IN 1995
PRECEDED THE NOVEMBER 1995 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS; A
MUCH SMALLER NUMBER OF MB ARRESTS PRECEDED EACH OF THE
1997 LOCAL COUNCIL AND 1998 SHURA COUNCIL ELECTIONS.
WE MAY NOW BE WITNESSING GOE PREVENTIVE EFFORTS PRIOR
TO THE OCTOBER 1999 PRESIDENTIAL REFERENDUM AND
PROSPECTIVE SYNDICATE ELECTIONS. SOME OBSERVERS
EXPECT THE GOE TO KEEP UP THIS PRESSURE THROUGH THE
NOVEMBER 2000 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. THE MESSAGE
FROM THE GOE TO THE MB IS: WE WILL NOT LET YOU RE-
BUILD, EVEN IF YOU ARE KEEPING QUIET. THE GOVERNMENT
ENSURES THAT ITS MESSAGE IS WELL DISSEMINATED BY
INFORMING THE PRESS OF THESE ARRESTS.



--------------------------


INTERNAL DIVISIONS ADD TO THEIR PROBLEMS


--------------------------



16.(C) THE GOE ARREST CAMPAIGNS UNIFORMLY TARGET THE
MID-RANGE CADRE OF THE MB, LEAVING THE SEPTUAGENARIANS
IN THE LEADERSHIP UNTOUCHED. DIFFERENCES HAVE EMERGED
BETWEEN THESE NOW-LATE 30 SOMETHING ACTIVISTS (WHO LED
THE SYNDICATE TAKEOVERS IN THE EARLY 1990'S) AND THE
OLD GUARD LEADERSHIP OVER ISSUES OF INTERNAL MANAGEMENT
AND POLICY. WE HEARD FROM EGYPTIAN OBSERVERS THAT
SPOKESMAN HODEIBY FILLED SEVERAL VACANT POSITIONS IN
THE GUIDANCE BUREAU WITHOUT CONVENING A SHURA COUNCIL
MEETING, AS THE MB RULES STIPULATE. ACCORDING TO THESE
OBSERVERS, THE YOUNGER GENERATION ALSO HOLDS MASHOUR
AND HODEIBY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WASAT GROUP'S
DEFECTION. IN 1996, ABOUT 70 YOUNGER MB ACTIVISTS
LEFT TO FORM THEIR OWN POLITICAL PARTY, CALLED THE
WASAT OR CENTER PARTY, AFTER MASHOUR REFUSED TO APPROVE
THEIR PARTY (REFTEL). MANY OF THE ORIGINAL WASAT GROUP
HAS RETURNED TO THE MB BUT, ACCORDING TO MB OBSERVERS,
THEY CONTINUE TO FEEL LEFT OUT OF POLICY DECISION-
MAKING. FINALLY, AT LEAST ONE OBSERVER (DIA RASHWAN OF
THE AL-AHRAM CENTER) SEES A GROWING RIFT BETWEEN THE
EGYPTIAN MB AND THE BRANCH ORGANIZATIONS IN OTHER ARAB
COUNTRIES, ACCENTUATED BY THE SECURITY PRESSURES FELT
BY THE EGYPTIAN MB. THE ORGANIZATIONS IN JORDAN, YEMEN
AND ALGERIA ARE RELATIVELY VIBRANT COMPARED TO THE
EGYPTIAN GROUP, AND SEEM LESS INCLINED TO FOLLOW
EGYPTIAN HOME OFFICE GUIDANCE. FINALLY, OUR MB SOURCES
SOMEWHAT PARADOXICALLY DO NOT SPEAK WELL OF THE ONLY
ISLAMIST GOVERNMENT IN THE ARAB WORLD - SUDAN - SINCE
TURABI'S NATIONAL ISLAMIC FRONT SEES ITSELF AS A
COMPETITOR TO THE MB, SEEKING TO ABSORB SUDAN'S MB INTO
ITS OWN "FRONT."



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





17. (C) CONDITIONS ARE DIFFICULT FOR THE MB AT PRESENT.
THE GOE'S DETERMINED OPPOSITION AND USE OF SECURITY
SERVICES AND EMERGENCY LAWS KEEPS THE PRESSURE ON. THE
EGYPTIAN PUBLIC, AS AN EXHAUSTING BOUT OF ISLAMIST
TERRORISM WINDS DOWN, SEEMS LESS INTERESTED NOW THAN IT
WAS A DECADE AGO IN AN ISLAMIST MESSAGE, EVEN THE MB'S
SOFT-SELL APPROACH. NEVERTHELESS, THE MB RETAINS A
NATION-WIDE ORGANIZATION WITH ROOTS IN THE GROWING
RANKS OF URBAN PROFESSIONALS, AND IN THE SUEZ CANAL
CITIES (WHERE IT STARTED), ALEXANDRIA AND PARTS OF THE
DELTA. THE MB TAKES A FAMOUSLY LONG VIEW OF ITS
PROSPECTS, AND IT WILL REMAIN THE LARGEST AND BEST
ORGANIZED OPPOSITION MOVEMENT IN EGYPT.



--------------------------


NOTE ON SOURCES


--------------------------





18. (C) THE MB IS A BANNED GROUP IN EGYPT. WHILE THE
GOVERNMENT USED TO TOLERATE A MORE OPEN MB PRESENCE
(E.G., THE MB IN 1987 OPENLY JOINED AN OPPOSITION
COALITION FOR PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS), SINCE 1995 IT
HAS STRICTLY ENFORCED THE BAN. GIVEN THESE HEIGHTENED
SENSITIVITIES, EMBASSY CONTACT WITH THE MB FOCUSES ON
INFLUENTIAL MB MEMBERS WHO ARE ALSO ACTIVE IN THE
PROFESSIONAL SYNDICATES. WE CALL ON THEM IN THEIR
CAPACITIES AS SYNDICATE LEADERS, NOT AS MEMBERS OF A
BANNED GROUP. OUR CURRENT MB CONTACTS ARE MUHAMMAD
ABDEL QUDUS AND SALAH ABDEL MAQSUD (BOTH ON THE BOARD
OF THE JOURNALISTS SYNDICATE), AHMAD SEIF AL-ISLAM
HASAN AL-BANNA (FORMERLY SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE
LAWYERS SYNDICATE, AN ACTIVE LAWYER), AND ABUL ELA AL-
MADI (FOUNDER OF THE MB SPLINTER WASAT PARTY, FORMER
SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ENGINEERS SYNDICATE). WE
ALSO CONTACT OTHER EGYPTIAN OBSERVERS OF THE MB SCENE.
THEY ARE DIA RASHWAN AND HALA MUSTAFA OF THE AL-AHRAM
CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES,
MUHAMMAD SALAH OF AL-HAYAT NEWSPAPER, KHALED DAWOUD OF
AL-AHRAM NEWSPAPER, RIFAAT SAID, SECRETARY GENERAL OF
THE TAGAMMU' PARTY, MAHMOUD ABAZA AND MUHAMMAD KAMIL OF
THE OPPOSITION WAFD PARTY, AND KAMAL ABUL MAGD, FORMER
MB MEMBER AND INTERNATIONAL LAWYER.


KURTZER