by Marlyn Tardros, PhD Executive Director of Virtual Activism
The world watched the January 25th revolution which ousted long-time president Hosni Mubarak. Now the world is watching again, this time with less optimism. But this is the story of a people who refuse anything less than freedom. Egyptians of all walks of life are not sleeping in tonight. Everyone throughout Egypt is on the streets determined to continue their revolution which had been interrupted.
When Egyptians elected the Islamist President Morsi, they were between a rock and a hard place: the first was a Mubarak-era nominee who many believed would be the end of the revolution, while the second was the Islamist Morsi who made promises of bringing the freedom they so longed for to life. The expression 'squeezed a lemon on themselves' referred to those who elected him in spite of knowing he would not be a good choice.
Morsi began his term by alienating even his closest allies. He excluded many factions from decision-making positions. While he promised to include women and Christians as his vice presidents, he reneged on his promise and made them 'advisors' instead with no substantial role. He formed a parliament again excluding many groups which the constitutional court soon deemed illegal. The illegal parliament wrote a constitution that constrained many hard-earned rights such as women's rights, children's rights, minority rights and others. He began appointing people of his 'tribe' who were members of his Islamist group. In addition, he gave amnesty to former terrorist group members with serious convictions in Egypt as well as amnesty to others who had convictions in other countries.
Moreover, Morsi was clearly not acting alone. It has been established that he takes orders from his Supreme Leader, the Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide to whom all Brothers pledge allegiance. It was clear that the country was run by the Brotherhood and their cult-like theocracy rather than by the elected individual.
In spite of many attempts at reconciliation, Morsi succeeded in polarizing Egyptians. He removed many people from their positions including the public prosecutor and some members of the constitutional court and replaced them with members of the Brotherhood. The public prosecutor exhibited and continues to exhibit bias towards the Brotherhood and issued arrest warrants to anti-Brotherhood activists. In addition to all of the above, Morsi persistently attacked the media for exposing him and his group and began to remove editors in chief and close newspapers and/or censor them. Added to this is that incidents of sectarian strife surged to unprecedented levels as the sectarian rhetoric became increasingly vitriolic. Cases of 'blasphemy' were used against Christians with unfounded accusations brought against them by people who simply disliked them. Shias were targeted and only last week there was a massacre of 5 Shia dragged and mob lynched outside their home.
Morsi's reaction to every criticism had been to gather his people around him and give a speech that was as embarrassing as it was inciting of violence and hatred. But his repeated blunders culminated in a meeting he broadcast live with a group of supporting heads of parties where they talked of conspiracies against a foreign country, namely Ethiopia, with whom Egypt shares the River Nile, because of the latter's decision to build a dam that would affect Egypt's Nile ration. Instead of embarking on the traditional diplomatic means, Morsi's meeting displayed ill-will towards Ethiopia and strained relations.
Adding to all of the above, Egypt was unable to secure any loans to help its ailing economy. There are massive shortages of fuel, sugar, wheat and other vital products. The unemployment rate has soared and the poor of course have become poorer.
After giving up on Morsi, Egyptians decided to take to the streets in a massive demonstration to withdraw confidence from him. They called it the Tamarrod movement which means rebellion. The deeply polarized nation has come together to make the following demands: first, removal of Morsi and his Brotherhood from power; second, removal of the incompetent government he appointed; third, cancellation of current constitution and a reinstatement of the previous constitution; fourth, handing power over to the constitutional court as an interim period until new elections are scheduled.
The embattled president's supporters gathered in one particular square near a mosque called Rabaa al Adaweya, to express their rejection of Tamarrod and its demands and show support for the president. They all belong to Islamist groups and in spite of saying they are 'peaceful' their behaviour has been anything but. They have been wielding knives and shotguns and rifles and threatening bloodshed should Morsi be removed by any means. They say that Morsi was "legitimately elected" and only the ballot box can remove him.
The army's role is also important to mention although it merits a different article. I will just say that the army said they would secure 'the people' if clashes began, and that they will bend to people's will. They are stationed all around important buildings and ministries in Egypt to secure them in anticipation of violence. However their position is still unclear. The army chief was appointed by Morsi but his loyalty remains in question. Should the army really side with the people, we should expect a new dawn in Egypt, come July 1st.
June 30th seems to be the final showdown between the pro and anti Morsi people. Demonstrations – as well as clashes – have been on-going for three days prior and several people died and many injured already. The people, however, are determined. They are saying that if we removed Mubarak for freedom, any dictator who follows has to know that they too will be removed if they go against people's will and their right to freedom.