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Egypt TV series sparks anger over 'rewriting' of 2013 Rabaa massacre

'The Choice' was slammed as propaganda by critics and a deliberate rewriting of history
The TV series depicting the Rabaa Massacre has sparked a wave of anger online (Screengrab/Social media)

An Egyptian TV series has been fiercely condemned online for its portrayal of historical events in the country, including the August 2013 Rabaa massacre.

The series, Al Iktiyaar 2 (The Choice 2) aired during the month of Ramadan. It is based on real events, telling the stories of two Egyptian Special Forces officers.

The storyline centres around Colonel Ahmed al-Mansi, a prominent commander who was killed in clashes in the Sinai Peninsula in July 2017, and Hisham Ashmawi, another leading commander who later became a leading member of the Islamic State militant group.

In one of the episodes, security officers are shown meeting and discussing the Rabaa sit-in, which was organised by opponents of the July 2013 coup that ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi. The coup was led by then defence minister Abdelfattah el-Sisi, who is now president.

Live ammunition, bulldozers and tanks were used to disperse the estimated 85,000 people at the sit-in, despite continued promises that it would be gradually dispersed. 

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The violent dispersal has since been regarded as one of the worst mass killings of demonstrators in modern history, with the death toll comparable, or exceeding, the Tiananmen Square massacre in China in 1989.

Security forces killed around 1,150 protesters on one day, in what was widely considered to be a crime against humanity. Investigations by independent rights groups reported that the killings were intentional and systematic. 

However, in the controversial TV depiction of the events, the security officers state that the people in the square are heavily armed and that they will peacefully disperse the protesters.

'Rewriting of history'

Online, many people shared footage and photos from the massacre, calling the TV series a "rewriting of history" and stating that it had falsified events in order to demonise the opposition and portray the army and security forces positively.

Translation: Thoughts on the false narrative The Choice 2. There is the complete omission of the army forces participating in the massacre. Where is their armour? Where are the bulldozers? Where are the officers and soldiers? What is the secret behind their omission? There needs to be an urgent report into the omission of these things. 

The series, which stars some of Egypt’s best-known actors, including Karim Abdel Aziz and Ahmed Mekki, has topped searches on Google and was trending on Twitter multiple times since it aired. 

Online, many social media users have used the hashtag "Rabaa Massacre" and "The Choice 2" to state that the series distorts the facts and glorifies security forces.

Translation: One day in the future, children of the actors who participated in this series will be ashamed when they study the events, like the propaganda of Hitler which is taught now…

In the first episode, titled "So We Do Not Forget", the show features an officer waking up immediately after he remembers a terrorist bombing. The scene then moves on to the National Security Agency building, where officers talk about the developments in Rabaa al-Adawiya square. 

In one episode, the officers are heard talking about the protests, saying that they seek to divide and split the country. 

Translation: The army takes pride in killing innocent people. Billions are spent on falsifying consciousness and trying to change the course of history…

The TV series, produced by Synergy, which is part of the state intelligence-owned Egyptian Media Group, has been heavily criticised for the content it produces, which critics have called propaganda. The production company has also previously come under fire for monopolising a significant amount of Ramadan productions.

Translation: Words are not enough to describe what happened on 14 August 2013. The word "massacre" is less than what was committed by the state, Al-Sisi, the army, the interior commanders, members of the special forces, the parachute squad, and snipers, who split up children, women and men, and the bulldozers.

Egypt’s President Sisi has come under fire for his tight control of the entertainment industry.

According to reports, two years after he toppled Morsi, Sisi warned TV stars that they would be held accountable if their work did not reflect the state’s narrative and positive outlook. 

Some producers say there is unprecedented censorship under Sisi, with extreme poverty being banned from being shown and security services being portrayed as heroes and in a positive light.

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