Published on August 16th, 2013 |
by Usman Butt
Battle for Egypt’s Soul
Egypt resembled war-torn Syria this week, as the Egyptian security forces carried out a brutal crackdown on supporters of the ousted president Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Hundreds lie dead across Egypt, in what can only be called a massacre. There has been widespread condemnation from leaders across the globe. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the violence was a ‘serious blow’ to political reconciliation efforts and urged restraint. Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul warned that Egypt could descent into chaos, comparing the clashes to the crackdown in Syria. Iran too condemned the crackdown, fearing the possibility of civil war.
Events began in July, when an estimated 14 million Egyptians marched against the unpopular, autocratic and out of touch President Morsi. Morsi, who had been democratically elected the year before with 51% of the vote, became a ‘lame duck’ president as Egypt’s economy flat lined and fears about his autocratic nature set-in. Morsi has always had powerful opponents who sought to capitalise on any of his shortcomings, and they invented them if they couldn’t find any. With millions of Egyptian on the streets, the military decided to size the opportunity, and launched a coup against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. They did so under the pretext that they were restoring stability to the country and that they supported the ‘will of the people’.
Most Egyptian revolutionaries welcomed the military intervention, which they claimed was not a coup, but an enforcement of the ‘people’s revolution’. The military claimed that they would restore democracy within six-months and new elections would be held. They called upon Muslim Brotherhood members to enter into ‘dialogue with them’, while appointing a temporary civilian administration to help maintain ‘the façade’ that this was not a coup. General Sisi, who was appointed as general chief of Egypt’s armed forces by Morsi, called on national reconciliation.
However, all of this was a ploy, as while talking of reconciliation on the one hand, Sisi’s military administration began talking of the need to ‘protect’ the country from ‘terrorism’. Egypt’s became a polarised, xenophobic, racist, chauvinistic and aggressively nationalist society after Morsi was toppled. The security threat (terrorists) was not only the Muslim Brotherhood as the Egyptian state and media began attacking Palestinians and Syrians. The military played on the fears of insecurity and began passing all kinds of draconian measures. This led to them declaring a ‘state of emergency’, resulting in Egypt effectively being ruled under martial law.
President Morsi and much of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, was initially taken ‘into protective custody’, but have since found that charges have been filed against them. Islamist channels and media outlets have been closed down, and millions of brotherhood supporters have staged protests and demonstrations. They have been staging mass sit-in protests for the past few weeks and these are the protests, in-which the massacre happened.
General Sisi gave orders that these sit-ins, which had also turned into camps as to stage 24-hour protests, must be dismantled and that the security forces were allowed to ‘use’ whatever force they deemed necessary. Whilst the Ministry of Interior have confirmed 150 deaths following the massacre, the Muslim Brotherhood has claimed that 600 of their members were killed. They vow to return to the streets as soon as possible. Egypt has never been so polarised as it is now, the country is deeply divided and the situation remains dangerous and tense.
Despite international condemnation, there is evidence that the July anti-Morsi revolution was partially funded by the US government. The US State department channelled funds to anti-Morsi oppositional groups and media outlets. Despite reservation, the US military has maintained links with the Egyptian military, post-toppling of Morsi. This gives the strongest indication that the United States recognizes and supports General Sisi, but it also raises questions about potential US complicity in the recent crackdown. Whatever the truth of the matter, Egypt is on the brink. We are witnessing a battle for Egypt’s soul.