Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Role of Tamarud Movement in Paving the Way
for the Egyptian Military Coup and the Sisi Presidency
Sheera Frenkel and Maged Atef
Buzz Feed, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, April 21, 2014
Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters
On the night of July 3, 2013, Moheb
Doss stood looking at his television set in disbelief as a
statement was read in his name on national television.
The words coming out of the
presenter’s mouth bore no resemblance to the carefully drafted
statement that Doss, one of the five co-founders of the Tamarod,
or Rebel, movement had helped draft hours earlier. It was a
statement to mark the moment of Tamarod’s victory, as the
protests the group launched on June 30 led to the ouster of the
Muslim Brotherhood government just five days later. It was a
statement, Doss said, that the group hoped would have a
stabilizing effect on the Egyptian public, as it called for a
peaceful transition toward a democratic path.
Instead, the presenter quoted Tamarod
as calling for the army to step in and protect the people from
“brute aggression” by terrorists during potentially turbulent
days. The statement supported the army’s forcible removal and
arrest of Brotherhood leader and then-President Mohamed Morsi,
and dismissed charges that what was happening was a coup.
“What we drafted was a revolutionary
statement. It was about peace, and going forward on a democratic
path,” Doss told BuzzFeed. “What was read was a statement that
could have been written by the army.”
For five days, millions of Egyptians
had taken to the streets and demanded an end to the rule of the
Muslim Brotherhood. Their numbers surpassed even the wildest
expectations of Tamarod, a then-largely unknown group that
organized the protests. The five founders became instant
celebrities, and on the night of July 3, the moment it appeared
their victory was imminent, all of Egypt’s television stations
had turned to them for a statement on what would happen next.
“What state TV read was as if it had
been written by the army, it threatened the Brotherhood, told
them they would use force if necessary,” Doss said. “I was
shocked. I understood then that the movement had completely
gotten away from us.”
It was, he realized later, the end of a process that began weeks
earlier, in which the army and security officials slowly but
steadily began exerting an influence over Tamarod, seizing upon
the group’s reputation as a grassroots revolutionary movement to
carry out their own schemes for Egypt.
“What they did, they did in our names because we let them,” said
Doss, who admits he turned a blind eye for too long to what was
happening behind the scenes at Tamarod. “The leaders of Tamarod
let themselves be directed by others. They took orders from
While the Tamarod movement has, in the past, been linked to
Egypt’s interior ministry and its members have admitted in
off-record interviews to taking phone calls from the army, never
before has a member of Tamarod said that they were under the
direct guidance of Egyptian army and intelligence officials. The
accusations confirm the suspicions of many in Egypt that the
group could not have enjoyed such widespread success without
being helped along by senior Egyptian officials.
When, on the night of July 3, the
military ousted the Brotherhood from government, arresting Morsi
and whisking him to a secret location, they did so in the name
of the tens of millions of people who had taken to the streets
after Tamarod circulated a petition across Egypt that drew up a
number of complaints against the Muslim Brotherhood-held
“How did we go from such a small
thing, five guys trying to change Egypt, to the movement which
brought tens of millions to the street to get rid of the
Brotherhood? The answer is we didn’t. I understand now it wasn’t
us, we were being used as the face of what something bigger than
us wanted,” said Doss, who now has nothing to do with the
Tamarod movement, or political life in Egypt. “We were naïve,
and we were not responsible.”
In six weeks, Egypt will go to the
polls and elect its first president since Morsi’s ouster. By all
accounts, army strongman Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, who recently
stepped down as the army chief, will win.
Doss now wonders if that wasn’t the
plan all along.
A Tamarod press conference in Cairo, May 29, 2013. Egypt
“When we began Tamarod we were very
innocent,” Doss said, nursing a coffee in downtown Cairo’s
historic Café Riche, less than a mile from where the group once
had its headquarters. Most, he said, had known each other from
the Kefaya movement, a grassroots coalition that once protested
against longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. “We knew each
other, we believed in the revolution and wanted it to continue.”
Doss, Walid el-Masry, Mohammed Abdel
Aziz, and Mahmoud Badr had all been leaders in the Kefaya
movement, and Hassan Shahin had been friendly with the group.
Doss said the men knew each other “reasonably well” and it was
exciting to launch Tamarod together.
He recalled, however, how in the weeks
leading up to the June 30 protests, their office began to fill
with unfamiliar faces who appeared to exert great influence over
Badr, Aziz, and Shahin. The three began taking meetings at the
interior ministry and with Sisi, then head of the army, and when
they returned, their talking points appeared to have shifted.
BuzzFeed repeatedly tried to reach Badr, Abdel-Aziz, and Shahin,
and relayed to them through emails, voicemails, and Facebook
messages the allegations that were being made against them by
Doss and other members of the Tamarod group. All three declined
According to a Reuters special report published last year,
officials at Egypt’s interior ministry helped collect signatures
to back Tamarod and joined in the protests.
“Of course we joined and helped the
movement, as we are Egyptians like them and everyone else.
Everyone saw that the whole Morsi phenomena is not working for
Egypt and everyone from his place did what they can to remove
this man and group,” a
security official told Reuters.
One interior ministry official told BuzzFeed that by mid-June,
Tamarod was receiving support from across his office and that
doors were opened to make sure the group received tactical and
logistical support for their protests.
When millions took to the streets on June 30, there were water
bottles and hundreds of thousands of miniature Egyptian flags to
be spread throughout the crowd. Smiling police officers posed
for photos with Egyptian babies, an unimaginable sight just one
year earlier, when Egyptians joined the Arab Spring protests and
took to the streets to call for an end to the police state and
Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.
In the skies above Tahrir Square, military planes began to
conduct elaborate flying stunts, painting the colors of the
Egyptian flag or drawing hearts in the blue summer sky. The
stunts were neither easy to perform nor cheap, but they sent the
clear message that both the army and police were behind Tamarod.
Doss recalled the evening of July 1,
as the army prepared to make an ultimatum that the protesters
reach a compromise with then-President Morsi over stepping down.
“My suspicion increased as we started
to discuss who should go and sit with Sisi and negotiate,” Doss
said. “We had agreed previously that there would be a coalition
of people who included one representative from the students, one
for women, one for religious minorities, and others. I was
shocked when all of a suddenly it was only them three — Badr,
Abdel Aziz, and Shahin — who went to go sit with Sisi.”
Badr, who was the official spokesman
for Tamarod, began making statements to the media that were in
direct contradiction to what the group had earlier discussed,
Doss said, and appeared to increasingly support the army.
In a press conference held the night
of July 1, Badr surprised many with his fiery rhetoric and with
calls for public support of Sisi and
the armed forces, “We salute the Army! We salute them!” Badr
said. “They have shown that they are with the people.”
Doss at first said he didn’t realize
what was happening to his movement, but later corrected himself,
and said he knew his group was not the independent, grassroots
movement they claimed to be. He had come forward once before, to
Daily Beast in
July 2013 that there
had been regular communication between his group and the army.
Doss admits he was overly naive about
what they had managed to achieve — the massive signature
campaign, support from state media, and seemingly limitless
funds. Even today, as he recounts how his co-founders began
meeting with army and state officials, he has a note of
disbelief in his voice.
“I realized that they were taking
orders, being used by state institutes,” Doss said. “This only
became more obvious the closer we were to June 3.”
Tamarod opposition leaders (from left) Hassan Shahin, Mohammed
Abdel-Aziz, and Mahmoud Badr meeting with then-interim president
in July 2013. AP
Photo/Sheriff Abd El Minoem, File
Badr, Shahin, and Abdel-Aziz no longer
frequent downtown Cairo. The area where the trio were once
praised as leaders of Tamarod has now become hostile after
stories emerged that they had accepted gifts of cars and
apartments from their backers. Little is verified, but the
rumors were enough to see a
mob attack Shahin when he sat in
the café less than a mile from Tahrir in October 2013.
“There is this feeling that they
betrayed the mood of the revolution,” said Sarah Yasin, a former
member of Tamarod. “Suddenly they had nice clothes and their
wallets were full of money. Everyone knew where that had come
Doss said that he had been offered the
same. On the night of July 3, he said he was also given the
chance to go meet with intelligence officials along with Walid
Masry — the fifth member of Tamarod.
“I knew what they were offering and I
said no,” he said. “Until that moment, I really wasn’t sure if I
would say yes or no, if I would take their payoff, but I
surprised myself and I didn’t.”
Masry, he said, also refused any
possible payoffs. Masry is about to start his mandatory
enlistment in the Egyptian army and couldn’t be reached for
comment. Doss is trying to start his own political movement but
is largely ostracized from the group.
“It seemed in the beginning we agreed
on several things. We wanted a road map and elections. We said
that we agreed that none of us five would run for office, and
that we would elect new names, new faces from the revolution,”
Doss said. “We all said that we should not try to benefit in
cash, or to run for office from what we were doing.”
Hesham Gobran, the owner of the
apartment that Tamarod used as their campaign headquarters,
said, “The group seemed happy until the state decided to put its
hand on Tamarod.”
Badr, Aziz, and Shahin appeared overly
excited by the media spotlight and seemed suddenly flushed with
cash, Gobran said. There were never any papers, he said, but he,
along with four other people who worked with the Tamarod
movement, told BuzzFeed that Badr, Aziz, and Shahin suddenly
appeared around the office with tablet computers that appear to
have been gifted to them.
“All this money was coming in, and it
was disappearing,” Doss said. “Nobody could tell you where it
Islam Hamam, who ran Tamarod’s social
media office, recalled overhearing an argument over three checks
totaling more than $100,000 that had been sent to the office
from a “wealthy Egyptian abroad.”
“It was confirmed that the checks had
arrived, but then money disappeared and we never heard about
it,” Hamam said. A young activist named Mohamed Badia who had,
until then, been in charge of finances, was suddenly given
another task by Badr. Hamam said when he asked about the
decision to remove their only finance officer, Badr told him,
“We trust each other and the checks come directly to us, so
there is no real need for a finance person as long as there is
Both Hamam and Gobran said there was no transparency over the
group’s finances, but that Badr, Aziz, and Shahin were
increasingly keen to meet with donors and control funds.
“Money disappeared and we never heard why or understood what was
happening,” Gobran said.
One female activist, who joined the group in early June, said it
appeared to be a combination of money and power that corrupted
the core founders.
“They suddenly saw a world opened up to them. They had
resources, money, made available to them by people with a lot of
power,” she said, asking not to be named because her parents are
both involved in political movements. “All of a sudden, they
wanted to be the people at the café, picking up the tab for
everyone. And as long as they said what the state wanted them to
say, they could have it all.”
Less than a year ago, Yasmine Taltawy was a member of Tamarod.
Today, she hangs a poster of Sisi above the cash register and
tapes small Egyptian flags to her clothing shop’s storefront.
“It’s important to be seen as supporting the correct side
today,” she said. “The message is clear that Egyptians should
vote and support the military, through Sisi.”
She recalled crying the night of July 3, when Sisi announced
that the army had overthrown Morsi and would be moving toward
early elections. “I remember fighting, screaming with a cousin
in Alexandria, who wrote on his Facebook wall that Egypt had
just had a coup. I was so angry at this suggestion,” she said.
“I told him that he would eat his words. That the army would
help us hold new elections and then step away.”
She said she has “no problem with Sisi running” but adds that
her cousin now gloats when he asks her if she is happy about the
miltary’s rise to power.
“He says to me, are you happy you and your friends from Tamarod
did this? Are you happy you helped Sisi? I don’t really have an
answer for him,” Taltawy said.
Doss also struggles for answers these
“This is not what we wanted to see
happen,” he said. “I know that in the beginning, we did not
believe that this would be the outcome of our movement.”
Unlike many in Egypt, Doss doesn’t know who he will vote for in
the upcoming elections. He won’t vote for Sisi, or the rival
liberal presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, he says, and can
only hope a new candidate steps forward to challenge them. He’s
not sorry for starting Tamarod, he stresses, though he’s
disappointed in where it’s led.
“What we were doing got away from us. It was bigger than us,” he
said. “We were used.”