Egyptian women demonstrating in Cairo, July 1 (credit: Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Just one year after Mohammed Morsi was sworn into office, Egypt’s army responds to popular protests by deposing the democratically elected president. How did we get here and can the army be trusted to return the country to a path of democracy?
On June 29, 2012, Tahrir Square erupted in cheers as Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, took office. On July 3, 2013, the square was once again packed with cheering Egyptians. This time, they were celebrating the military’s announcement that Morsi had been ousted, the constitution suspended and a senior judiciary figure appointed interim leader pending early elections. Meanwhile, Morsi was under house arrest.
A lot can happen in a year.
The day Morsi took office, he stood in front of the cheering crowd and opened his blazer to reveal that he was not wearing any protective gear. Stepping away from his panicked body guards, he charmed the crowd by announcing that he was not afraid because he was “one of the people.” This has always been the Muslim Brotherhood’s main claim to legitimacy — that it represents the real Egyptians. Not the city dwellers and not the liberal upper class, but the millions who live in slums, small towns and villages, struggling to make a living and adhering to a basically conservative Muslim lifestyle.
A few weeks after he took office, Morsi announced the forced retirement of several senior military officers. These included Field Marshall Tantawi, the defense minister who had headed SCAF, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, which ruled Egypt for 18 months between the overthrow of Mubarak and the election of Morsi.
Readers might remember that the army committed many acts of tremendous brutality during that interim period. Hundreds of civilian protestors were tried in military courts and handed lengthy jail terms. Female protestors were subjected to a form of sexual assault called “virginity tests.” There was the Maspero Massacre, when the army opened fire on Coptic protestors, killing 20. There was the incident of the “girl in the blue bra,” who was stripped and beaten on the street by security forces. And so on.
No wonder, then, that so many Egyptians...Read More