|Valérie Châr-Aux-Boeufs and King Tucky, Facebook, July 4, 2013|
Until recently, cartoonists at independent newspapers were not shy in depicting the excesses of the military; Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood appeared as bumblers. In the past week, though, they have been supporting the military, which has arrested dozens of Islamists, with images of Brotherhood cadres armed to the teeth, defying military authority and inciting violence.
To take one example: in January, 2013, the Al-Masry Al-Youm cartoonist Doaa El-Adl drew Morsi at a podium alongside a blank speech bubble that dwarfed him in size. This week, El-Adl repurposed the same cartoon—with the speech bubble packed with firearms and a grenade.
The cartoonist Shafik Salah said by phone that editors at Freedom and Justice, the daily newspaper of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, “aren’t in prison, but they don’t have a place” to work—the offices were shut down by the military. The paper has shrunk from fourteen to eight pages, and editors are also recycling cartoons. In one of Salah’s cartoons from April, republished this week, a white bird (labelled “the revolution”) pops a hole in Mubarak’s floating device, marked “the counterrevolution.” In a cartoon by Hazem Wahba—published twice this week—a mustached man says, to his two bearded friends, “Hold out and be strong, brothers. I swear that victory is soon, and don’t be sad. God is with us.” In the upper corner of every page of the paper, the words “The Legitimate President” are printed.
Freedom and Justice isn’t widely available anymore. When I asked a news vendor for a copy on July 2nd, as the military countdown ticked, he laughed and replied, “It’s not here and it’s not coming. Ever again.” The state-owned publisher refused to print the July 4th edition.
Whatever their position on the new government, cartoonists are acutely aware of the possibility of military censorship. In the period before Morsi’s election, at least three artists told me that they received personal phone calls from military officers telling them to tone down their work. “The claim was that such a cartoon hurts the military council and affects their performance,” Amro Talaat, the head of caricatures at Al-Tahrir newspaper, an opposition daily, told me in May. The military “is sensitive toward cartoons, as it is more effective. You may attack them in an article, but not in a cartoon.”
What follows are seven cartoons and a Facebook meme (shown above) that provide a broad picture of how Egyptians see the military’s power play.
Andeel, Al-Masry Al-Youm, July 8, 2013
Officer: “I am killing him because he’s a terrorist.” Bearded man: “I am a terrorist because he is killing me.” The cartoonist, Andeel, depicts the viciousness on both sides of Egypt’s fault line. He plays on the stereotypes being employed by politicians and artists, all the more so since the shootings at the Republican Guard headquarters on Monday, in which the military fired upon rows of Morsi supporters at a sit-in, according to eyewitnesses. Wendell Steavenson has noted that there were reports of gunfire on both sides. But the violence was asymmetrical, with the Army doing most of the shooting by far. Fifty-one demonstrators, a single member of the military and two policemen were killed—one perhaps by the Army, the Times reported.
Makhlouf, Al-Masry Al-Youm, July 7, 2013
“We are defending democracy… you infidels!!” Just as the Brotherhood dismisses anti-Morsi sentiment as a Mubarak conspiracy, cartoonists on the other side are depicting the Muslim Brotherhood as rampaging fundamentalists. “The aim here is to dehumanize and deny agency, much in the same way the Muslim Brotherhood dismiss their opponents as kuffar (infidels),” Sarah Carr, a British-Egyptian journalist, explained in an article for Mada Masr, an independent online newspaper in Cairo.