Egypt - Politics
The Muslim Brotherhood has been overthrown, its leaders jailed or on the run, and the Egyptian military is again ruling the country. Egypt's army ousted democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 and launched a crackdown on his supporters that left hundreds of people dead. The interim government then imposed a state of emergency and nightly curfew to restore control. At the same time, the military-backed government is moving ahead with a transition plan that envisions elections for a new president and parliament next year. Morsi is being held awaiting trial on charges of inciting murder and violence. Egyptian authorities acted November 13, 2013 to end the three-month state of emergency, a step that may help the army-backed government restore a semblance of normalcy after turmoil ignited by the military overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi.
On 14 August 2013 Egypt's interim presidency proclaimed a one-month state of emergency, ordering the armed forces to help the Interior Ministry enforce security. In addition, a nighttime curfew was declared in Cairo and at least ten other provinces. Under the state of emergency, Egyptian military forces have wide range of authority without challenge from a second or third party. They may enforce curfews, close institutions, detain anyone at will, keep people in detention as long as they deem necessary and enforce travel restrictions.
On 16-17 August 2013 large crowds of Morsi supporters took to the streets in Cairo, Alexandria and several other cities, in defiance of a nighttime curfew. The government said the carnage left 173 people dead — most of them in Cairo — and more than 1,000 injured. A spokesman said 57 security force officers were killed on these two days. Overall, more than 700 people have been killed during the past week. The pro-Morsi National Alliance for Supporting Legitimacy put the two-day death toll at 213.
Security forces moved in on 14 August 2013 with armored vehicles, bulldozers and tear gas to clear two protest camps in Cairo, and clashed with supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in a number of other locales. There there wer widely divergent estimates of the casualties from the clashes. The United Nations said hundreds were killed or wounded in the clashes. The Muslim Brotherhood called the security operation a "massacre" and put the death toll at 500, while Egypt's Health Ministry said at least 95 people were killed and 874 wounded.
By 15 August 2013 Egypt's health ministry said the violence killed at least 525 people and wounded more than 3,700. The Muslim Brotherhood has put the death toll at more than 4,500. Video distributed by the Muslim Brotherhood showed hundreds of bodies wrapped in shrouds at Cairo's El Iman mosque.
Egyptian authorities had warned that a siege of anti-government encampments was imminent, but tens of thousands of demonstrators camped out in key areas of Cairo remained defiant. The government called the encampment a threat to security, pointing to provocations from some among the protesters, and the near daily marches that disrupt traffic throughout the city. International envoys tried to find a way out of the impasse, to no avail. A rival Islamist group to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafi Nour Party, urged Egyptians to “stop attacking government buildings and churches.” The Nour Party has refused to join the interim government, but criticized the Muslim Brotherhood for not participating in the political process since the ouster of Morsi.
The hardliners within Egypt's government won a victory over more moderate voices, such as reformist leader Mohammad ElBaradei, who were calling for dialogue rather than force to deal with the protests. Following the violent crackdown, Egypt's interim vice president, pro-reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei, resigned, saying he could not bear responsibility for decisions he "does not agree with and whose consequences" he feared. Some expected a low-level insurgency type thing to happen in Egypt for the next several years.
One of Morsi's former advisers put some of the blame on the United States and Secretary of State John Kerry. Wael Haddara, now in Canada, said that Kerry's statements in the weeks before the crackdown helped embolden Egypt's military. "Well I think whatever happens in Washington it is really in the manner of being too little too late," he said. "When Mr. Kerry said that the army was 'resetting things for democracy - restoring democracy' I think clearly the army understood that to be a green light, a carte blanche to do whatever they want to do and they've gone ahead and done it."
Only a few thousand supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi turned out for protests Friday 23 August 2013 despite calls for massive marches, as Islamists reeled from a fierce police crackdown. Friday was set to be a test of the remaining strength and commitment of the Islamists, who called for "Friday of martyrs" protests after the main weekly Muslim prayers. But Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood managed only to rally several thousand supporters, unlike the hundreds of thousands who flooded streets before police and soldiers dispersed two protest camps in Cairo earlier this month, killing hundreds. Their numbers had been thinned by a fierce crackdown that has seen some 2,000 members and leaders arrested, including the movement's supreme guide, Mohamed Badie.
In a 23 September 2013 ruling, an Egyptian court banned all activities by the Muslim Brotherhood, including demonstrations, institutions and associations, and ordered a seizure of the group's assets. The ruling, in a case brought by the leftist political party Tagammu, did not order an outright ban on the group itself. A second, pending lawsuit against the Brotherhood seeks to take that step.
While other groups in Egypt's long-fractured opposition rejected the military's call for a mandate against “terrorism,” Tamarod ["Rebellion"] stood by its side. Its support raised further questions of how this small group, seemingly quixotic in its quest to topple a president, found in two months the means and organizational skills to rally millions. Leaders deny any help from security forces in launching their anti-Morsi campaign. Whatever its origins, Tamarod's anti-Islamist brand appeared to be spreading. The public face of outcry against Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, in October 2013 Tamarod said it would compete nationally in new elections for parliament.
Egyptians had been protesting almost continuously since demonstrations toppled the 30-year reign of Hosni long-time president Mubarak in February of 2011. But activist groups splintered, alliances shifted and competing protests across the country left more than 100 dead in July 2013 alone, one of the bloodiest periods, after the Egyptian military toppled President Morsi and put him under house arrest.
Neither side in the Egyptian conflict had shown much taste for reconciliation. Commenting on TV coverage, Rawya Rageh noted that "The rhetoric used by presenters and their guests, particularly on private stations – who Morsi had come at loggerheads with particularly during his last days in office – has gone beyond trying to isolate the Brotherhood and veered into the more serious territory of demonizing and dehumanizing them. Pro-Morsi sit-ins in the eastern and southern part of the capital have been repeatedly described as pools of filth covered in human excrement, and occupied by lice-ridden people with skin disease.... The Muslim Brotherhood’s channel Misr 25 and other TV stations backing Morsi were promptly shut down the day he was removed from office. They, too, had been engaged in a similar campaign of demonizing Morsi’s opposition for months ahead of the June 30 protests."
Egyptian political developments are seen by some as manifestations of what many inside and outside of academia have called the "deep state" - an elite which has manipulated and controlled the political system. The divisions plaguing Egypt often are portrayed as a struggle between those for and against ousted President Mohamed Morsi. But for those on Morsi's side, there appeared to be a far more sinister player on the scene - moving against whatever progress Egypt has seen since the 2011 uprising. The deep state - a concept rooted in the old Ottoman Empire and popularized in recent years in Turkey - pits conservatives against Islamists who would bring change. Even some opposed to both the Mubarak and the Morsi governments saw a deep state triumphant. Morsi was opposed by the judiciary, but also the media, the foreign office, the police force, the military, Al Azhar mosque and the church. And they resisted.
Mohamed Soudan, foreign secretary of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing said, “As soon as the Revolution of 25th of January started, there is a conspiracy against this revolution. There is a deep state. There is corruption. There is counter-revolution started also.” Soudan said this “deep state” aimed to revive everything the protesters on Tahrir Square two years ago tried sweep away. “Now the police state is coming back," he said. "The army state is coming back. The conspiracy of the former regime, Mubarak regime is coming back."
Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour called for the Muslim Brotherhood to join the military-led transition and take part in upcoming votes to decide on a new constitution, parliament, and president. But the Brotherhood refused, insisting that doing so would essentially be giving approval to what it views as a military coup against the government of Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected leader. "The entire political process is nothing more than a sham. And participating in it gives it legitimacy," said Gehad El-Haddad, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, in an interview with VOA. It makes little sense, Haddad said, for the Brotherhood to try to win elections as it did for the past two years, if it is does not believe that Egypt's military will allow it to take power again. "There is no guarantee the military will not do this again," he said. "We've already gone through a presidential election, we've gone through parliamentary elections, we've gone through a constitutional referendum."
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