In early 1920s, an old lady called Khadra Shuaira leased her rural house in Damanhour city, north west of Delta, to some expatriate students of the School of Teachers. While she was setting in the backyard of her mud-brick house, a group of security forces stormed it, pursuing a number of students.
When she was asked about the 16-year-old students led by a young man called Hassan al-Banna (the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood), Shuaira had fiercely denied their presence. “They left in the morning and did not come back. And….” Shuaira said before being interrupted by Al-Banna who showed himself. The old lady stunned and felled silent for a while as she was embarrassed by his appearance. However Shuaira resumed her defense and lied to cover their presence.
In his autobiography “Memoirs about the Call and the Preacher,” Ḥasan al-Banna (1906-1949) said Khadra’s reply was untrue and unreasonable to him because she lied. “This reply was unreasonable and I did not like it. So I showed myself to the police officer, telling him about the matter. Hajja Khadra was in very embarrassing situation” he wrote.
Special Apparatus follows in al-Banna’s footsteps
Few years later, Al-Banna founded “the Muslim Brotherhood” organization in 1928. Over 20 years since the establishment, the group members adopted Al-Banna’s approach of underground activities and hiding. He relied on “internal camps” to get more supporters and recruited university students to rent houses and apartments used as hideouts under its leaders’ control.
By the 1940s, Al-Banna, the first General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, set up what is known as “ Special Apparatus” or “Secret Movement,” the military wing of the group. The secret members were renting apartments and houses to be hideouts for weapon manufacturing, according to Brotherhood historian Mahmoud al-Sabbagh in the book of “Reality of the Secret Apparatus.” The rented apartments, which were also caches for weapons collected to fight in Palestine late 1940s, were as battlefields of clashes between the group members and the government forces.
The case of dens: mutual refutation among members
In 1947, the government stormed dens used by 50 members of the Brotherhood. Pro-Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan Wiki has published a story denies Sabbagh’s version. Ikhwan Wiki claimed that the case of dens was a psychological warfare practiced by the government against the group, to slow down its progress in the field of Islamic Call.
It claimed that some wanted members had been arrested from their homes without being accused of any charges to be imprisoned.
“Fifteen members of the Muslim brotherhood – seen as dangerous by the government- were charged with various crimes in this case… They were arrested from their homes in Rod al-Farag, Shubra street, Al Sandoubi, Giza. Their homes were labeled as the Muslim Brotherhood’s dens. Three out of 50 escaped to Libya (Yusuf Ali Yusf, Ezz al-Din Ibrahim, and Mohamed Galal Seeda). Fourth memer, Mahmoud Younis al-Sherbini, was arrested in Alexandria before heading to Libya after one-month disappearance,” Ikhwan Wiki says.
However, Mahmoud al-Sabbagh’s statements refuted the above-mentioned version, confessing that the Brotherhood based in their war against the government on underground gun-equipped apartments across Egypt.
“In the wake of the detention of the Brotherhood members in the case of Dens, the underground apartments because known. The government allowed the usage of all kinds of torture. Before storming any den, a new unknown den would be created and equipped with guns, rifles, and bullets,” Sabbagh said.
Sabbagh’s book shed the light on the clashes erupted between the Brotherhood members and the government forces […] The members’ duty was fighting the “traitorous” government. The government has misused Banna’s statement of “They are neither brotherhood nor Muslims in 1948 to arrest the hidden members.
Former General Guide Deputy of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohammed Habib, a dissent member, said in 2010 that the Brotherhood over the past 40 years [from 1970s to 2011] were keen to avoid violence for more reasons, mainly to cope with the ruling regimes back then.
“The Special Apparatus started using farms[as hideout] sine early 1940s. Those farms were used for storing weapons, which were gotten […] to fight in Palestinian territories against the Zionists and the along the banks of the [Suez] canal against British occupation. However, a group of the organization deviated from the [non-violence] fixed approach, resulted in plotting assassinations against their rivals. They assassinated Prime Minister Mahmoud Fahmy Elnokrashy Pasha and Judge Ahmed El-Khazindar Bey in 1948,” Sabbagh told al-Watan newspaper on January 28, 2017.
When Muslim Brotherhood members had seats in the Parliament since the beginning of the 3rd millennium (2000- 2005- 2011), they sought to provide other parliamentarians with some privileges in return of purchasing plots of desert land in some governorates. The remote plots (farms), which are considered safe havens geographically and economically, were allocated to be summer and winter camps.
In June 2017, Brotherhood defendants, whom being tried in the trial dubbed in media as Fayoum Special Committee, confessed that they had used a poultry farm as a hotbed of their activities to be sheltered after carrying out terrorist attacks against security forces.
The Brotherhood searched for other “crypts” to guarantee its presence; a source revealed in remarks to “Al-Margei” that the Brotherhood took syndicate-affiliated apartments and houses locate in their areas as dens to hold their special meetings and activities. Some classes in private schools, owned by Brotherhood members, have been taken as alternative headquarters to hold meetings.
Since the Brotherhood’s ruling has been ousted following June 30 Revolution, MB-affiliated groups such as Revolutionary Punishment, Lowaaal-Thawra (Revolution Brigade), and Hassm have emerged. They adopted violent approach of carrying weapons and holing up in remote apartments.
The emerged group exploited farms, educational centers, youth centers and clubs in some governorates to shelter and and have trainings of weapon manufacturing, besides planning assassinations and attacks against police ambushes and public facilities.