Egypt’s unrest isn’t over. In fact, it’s starting up again.
After the January, 2011 revolution overthrew Mubarak, Muhammad Morsi was elected president in June, 2012. A long-time member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi quickly showed his colors as a die-hard Islamist as well as something of an autocrat. On November 22, 2012, he issued decrees granting himself full legislative and judicial authority, removing any judicial review of any of his actions. Ostensibly this was supposed to be to protect the actions of the Constituent Assembly, and only to last until the new constitution was ratified. Protests erupted in Tahrir Square over the decree, turning violent in several cases, and leaving several of the protestors dead. In December, Morsi annulled the decree, but most of his opposition did not accept that anything had really changed.
Morsi’s policies have continued to be widely unpopular, and in many cases viewed as disastrous for Egypt. Morsi’s administration openly opposed Ethiopia’s Nile Dam project, making statements for public consumption advocating sabotage and containing racism toward the black Ethiopians. (There is a great deal of Arab-on-black racism in North Africa.) He also cut off diplomatic ties to Syria, openly supporting the Islamist rebels against Assad.
The opposition has continued to clash with Morsi’s supporters. On June 27, even as Morsi issued a speech calling for dialogue between his administration and the opposition, a pro-Morsi rally in Mansura turned violent, as opposition protestors attacked the Islamists rallying for Morsi. At least one person was killed in the clash.
It should be noted that the divisions in Egypt are not limited solely to secular protestors versus Islamists. At the end of 2012, and early 2013, a dispute between the Salafi Nour Party and the Muslim Brotherhood led to an apparent split in their alliance, triggered when Morsi fired Khaled Alameddine, one of his chief Nour Party advisers, for using his position for personal gain.
In April, 2013, the “Tamarrud” or “Rebellion” movement was started, aiming at overthrowing Morsi. Apparently a grassroots movement, Tamarrud has reportedly collected 22 million signatures calling for Morsi to step down and for new elections to be held. Tamarrud planned mass protests for June 30 in Tahrir Square.
The protests did indeed start on the 30th, with Tamarrud announcing that Morsi had 24 hours to step down. While there were initially some Islamist rallies in favor of Morsi, including one attended by Yussuf al Qaradawi, Al Akhbar reports that the opposition forces vastly outnumber the pro-Morsi groups on the ground. Many Islamist leaders who would have been expected to be openly supporting Morsi are reported to have been absent. Many of the protestors are carrying signs saying “Leave,” and others are holding up red cards, used to eject soccer players from the game. There have been police units siding with the protestors as well.
There have been violent clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi groups during the protests, even before June 30. Al Jazeera reports two people killed in Alexandria on June 28. According to Al Akhbar, as of July 1st, the Egyptian Health Ministry was reporting 16 people killed in the protests in Cairo. Overnight, between June 30th and July 1st, the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in the Moqattam district in Cairo was burnt by the protestors.
Protests have taken place in Cairo, Suez, Alexandria, Port Said, and Aswan. The latter four are considered Islamist strongholds, yet the anti-Morsi protests are extensive there.
Up until recently, the Egyptian Army had essentially stayed out of the dispute, but on July 1st, the Army issued a statement that Morsi had 48 hours to share power and accede to the people’s demands, or it would step in to restore order. Special forces units are already said to be deploying throughout the country. Also on July 1st, the former Chief of Staff and Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Sami Anan, resigned as Morsi’s chief military adviser.
As of the time of this writing, July 2, Morsi had rejected both the protestors’ and the Army’s demands, saying that he will continue to pursue his own program for reconciliation of Egypt’s fractured people. The protestors remain in the streets, and it remains to be seen what the Army will do.
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