Disillusioned and in exile, some Egyptian Islamists turn to suicide

Outside Egypt, including in Turkey, Brotherhood exiles do all types of menial jobs, including dishwashing at restaurants, toiling at factories and working at farms.
Sunday 03/11/2019
Increasingly isolated. A file picture shows supporters of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood taking part in a rally near the Egyptian Embassy in Ankara.(AFP)
Increasingly isolated. A file picture shows supporters of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood taking part in a rally near the Egyptian Embassy in Ankara.(AFP)

CAIRO - Revelations about the suicide of junior members of the Muslim Brotherhood who had fled to Turkey highlight the difficult living conditions of the Islamist movement’s adherents in exile, analysts said.

“Most of those who travelled to Turkey and other countries face very severe financial hardships,” said Sameh Eid, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood. “Compounding the hardships is the disillusionment the members of the Islamist organisation in exile are experiencing after discovering the falsity of the promises they were given by their leaders.”

Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members fled from Egypt following the downfall in 2013 of President Muhammad Morsi, who had been an influential Brotherhood member.

Three junior members in Turkey killed themselves, a colleague of theirs said. A fourth member tried to take his life but was rescued.

Support from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for exiled Brotherhood members had apparently been drying up as Turkey dealt with severe economic problems.

The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2012, almost eight decades after its founding, amounted to a political earthquake throughout the Arab world.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest Islamist organisation in the Arab region, has branches in almost every country. Its rise to power in Egypt should have emboldened Islamists in all other countries where uprisings known as the “Arab spring” took place in 2011.

However, instead of leading to an Islamist political rise, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood turned into an aversive model because of its inability to address Egypt’s economic and political woes.

This comes as reports surfaced alleging corruption within the Brotherhood leadership.

In July, a senior member of the Brotherhood said there was a great deal of corruption among the Brotherhood leaders in Turkey. Amir Bassam referred in a leaked audio to the embezzlement by Brotherhood leaders. The leaders, he said, take funds, ostensibly raised by the organisation to help its members get by, and spend them on their own families, including purchasing luxurious vehicles and housing.

“This causes frustration to the members of the organisation and makes them discover they are the victims of a bunch of thieves enriching at their expense,” said Ibrahim Rabie, another former member of the Muslim Brotherhood. “The problem is that the members of the Brotherhood who had escaped to Turkey and other countries cannot either return to Egypt or keep living in exile.”

Most Muslim Brotherhood members who escaped from Egypt are wanted by Egyptian courts for suspected involvement in criminal acts, including murder.

These charges led to an all-out crackdown by post-Morsi Egyptian authorities on the affiliates of the entities, charities and companies of the Muslim Brotherhood, which resulted in many Brotherhood leaders and members to be imprisoned.

That is why most Brotherhood exiles are afraid to return. Outside Egypt, including in Turkey, they do all types of menial jobs, including dishwashing at restaurants, toiling at factories and working at farms.

This comes as financial assistance to the Brotherhood by some sponsor states is not easy to access because of the failure of the Islamist group to return to power in Egypt, analysts said.

With a huge media machine in Turkey and other countries, one that includes several TV channels and publications, the Muslim Brotherhood in exile is a huge problem to the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Sisi’s government has greatly reduced the capabilities of the Brotherhood and the militias affiliated to it. However, the Muslim Brotherhood still has presence in Egypt through sleeper cells thought to operate at the orders of the group’s leaders in exile.

This was manifest in the ability of the group to organise protests in a number of Egyptian provinces in September, against the background of videos by a construction contractor who accused Sisi and the Egyptian Army of corruption.

“The junior members of the Brotherhood are finally discovering that they were deceived by their leaders,” said Khaled Okasha, a security expert and a member of the Supreme Counter-Terrorism Council, an advisory body of the Egyptian presidency. “The collapse of the Brotherhood front outside Egypt will, of course, weaken the organisation inside it.”

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