Esam Al-Amin is the author of The Arab Awakening Unveiled: Understanding Transformations and Revolutions in the Middle East. He can be contacted at [email protected]. follow him on Twitter: @al_arian1919.
August 15, 2013
Bloodbath on the Nile
In June 1967, it took Israeli forces only six hours to rout the Egyptian military and devastate its air force, inflicting the most humiliating defeat on the Arab world in the last half century. In the 1973 October war, the Egyptian army killed 2600 Israeli soldiers in 20 days of combat. Nearly forty years later, the Egyptian military turned its guns on its own citizens to much devastation: on August 14, it took the combined forces of Egypt’s army and police twelve hours to disperse tense of thousands of unarmed peaceful protesters in two sit-in camps in the eastern and western suburbs of Cairo. It was a determined effort by the July 3 coup leaders to not only defeat their political opponents, but also to strike a decisive blow to democracy and the rule of law in Egypt and across the Arab world.
Since June 28, Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) have been camped out at these two sites, initially as a show of support to President Mohammad Morsi as he was being challenged by the opposition. But since he was deposed on July 3, the protesters have been demanding his return, the restoration of the suspended constitution, and the reinstatement of the dissolved parliament. For 48 days, the sit-ins and demonstrations across Egypt attracted millions of Morsi supporters as well as pro-democracy groups, who protested the coup’s nullification of their presidential and parliamentary votes and their ratification of the referendum on the new constitution.
An Obstinate Military Enabled by Liberal and Secular Forces and Western Powers
Throughout the six-week standoff, the country’s military rulers, led by coup leader Gen. Abdelfattah Sisi, insisted on the MB’s complete recognition of the status quo and their submission to the political roadmap as determined by him on July 3. On several occasions, Sisi declared that he would not budge an inch on a future course that was certain to impede the country’s path towards democracy and constitutional legitimacy by ignoring the will of the electorate expressed at the ballot box more than five times in eighteen months. While Egyptians elected Morsi as president with a clear majority in June 2012 in free and fair elections, they also affirmed that vote nearly two to one when they ratified the new constitution six months later. Article 226 of the constitution stated that the term of the current president (Morsi) would “end four years after his elections” or in June 2016.
In fact, one month after the coup, the Egyptian public opinion has sharply turned against it. On August 6, the respectable Egyptian Center for Media Studies and Public Opinion published a poll showing that 69 percent of the Egyptian public rejects the military coup, while 25 percent supports it, with 6 percent refusing to give their opinion. Of those who reject it, only 19 percent identify themselves with the MB, 39 percent with other Islamist parties, while 35 percent are unaffiliated but feel that their votes were invalidated by the coup. Of those who support it, 55 percent in the poll consider themselves former Mubarak regime loyalists, while 17 percent identify themselves as Coptic Christians opposed to Islamists’ rule. Moreover, 91 percent of those who refused to give an answer belong to the pro-Saudi Salafist Al-Noor Party, which initially supported the coup before it pulled back and withdrew from Sisi’s roadmap.
As I explained in a previous article, shortly after the coup, the military and their largely liberal and secular enablers set the stage for excluding the Islamist groups, particularly the MB and its political-affiliate, the Freedom and Justice Party, by arresting or issuing arrest warrants for their leaders, freezing their accounts, seizing their assets, banning their media outlets, and orchestrating an elaborate demonization campaign against them. This discourse was reminiscent of the Mubarak-era tactics employed against the group for decades by the notorious state security apparatus, which was reconstituted shortly after the coup.