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One year ago, just before Egypt’s President Mubarak was toppled, protesters called the military to their side: The side of history. Hundreds of thousands chanted, “The army. The people. One hand.” The army was seen, then, as heroic. But now many fear the mighty Egyptian military with its vast economic resources will not relinquish power — that it has betrayed the revolution.

"The Army, The People..."

Egypt's forgotten revolutionaries

Army officers who joined Tahrir Square protests sit in jail with little popular support.

Editor’s note: Concern is mounting in Egypt that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) will not live up to its promise to relinquish executive power in July, a fear that led to the Saturday announcement by Nobel laureate Mohammed ElBaradei that he would withdraw in protest from the presidential race. A small number of mllitary officers are joining the growing opposition to SCAF and its increasingly brutal crackdown on the protest movement. It is a spirit of questioning within the military never imaginable under the military-backed regimes that have ruled the country for 60 years. At least two dozen officers have stepped forward to challenge the military since April, which is seen as tantamount to defection. In this report, Egyptian journalist and GlobalPost ‘reporting fellow’ Ahmed Ateyya goes inside the nascent movement of military ‘defectors.’

CAIRO — Mohammed Al Wadee never studied music and he’s not a professional singer, but he has a good voice and he wrote a song in June 2010.

That song landed him in prison.

An Egyptian army captain, Al Wadee, 23, wrote verses which in no uncertain terms accuse the high commanders of the military with financial and political corruption. And he sang, perhaps longingly, of a desire to see youth leaders rise up against the regime.

"Agents and traitors,

dogs are commanding lions.

Take care now, the lions are growing restless ..."

In early 2010, he shared the song with fellow army officers, one of whom notified his superiors. With Egypt still in the tight grip of Mubarak and the police state filled with informants, Al Wadee was charged with “promoting divisions” within the army and he spent approximately 9 months in the brig, according to his family and political activists who have met with him. And it was from behind bars in the military detention center that he heard about the dizzying events of Tahrir Square and the uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak.

He was released in March 2011.

Then on April 8th he and other "restless lions" joined the Tahrir Square protests in their military uniforms, unarmed, demanding the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) immediately step down and hand its authority to a civil presidential council.

Twenty-two army officers are now in jail. At least four were arrested in the square. Others turned themselves in, or were hunted down at their homes or places of work.

While some were sentenced, others are waiting their next court hearing on February 11. Two more ‘defectors’ surfaced in November and some military analysts are now wondering if this trickle of dissent could become a movement.

Al Wadee’s family is worried about his fate and his mother has begged the military to release him, but he remains behind bars.

Hoda Naguib, Al Wadee's mother, described him as a devoted soldier who respected the military life since he was very young. His father is a retired army officer who used to take him to the barracks as a young boy.

"My son was a true man, and an excellent soldier," she said. "But he felt discontent of the corruption of the political life in Egypt before the revolution, and that Mubarak was not charged after the revolution."

Naguib said that her son joined his fellows in Tahrir Square on April 8th and chanted "mothers of the martyrs are my own mothers," but he didn’t join the sit-in which was later attacked by the military.

They found him anyway.

Around 1 a.m. on April 9, Al Wadee’s home was surrounded by military police vehicles. They stormed the family house and confiscated his identification cards.

"He didn’t resist, but they treated him as if they were arresting a dangerous criminal," Naguib said.


The April 8th officers may be the only political prisoners in Egypt that human rights organization seem unwilling, or perhaps too intimidated, to champion. Political parties have also steered clear of their cases. 

Heba Morayef, researcher in the North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, was asked about the ‘defectors’ and their cases. She replied, "They are officers, and by law they can be subjected