News

Trouble in Egypt

Violence erupts as the Middle Eastern country navigates a new revolution

July 08, 2013
MAHMUD HAMS—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Supporters of overthrown president Mohamed Morsi gather in Cairo, Egypt to rally in support of the former leader on Monday, July 8.

Over the past several days, conflict has erupted in Egypt. On Sunday June 30, millions of protesters took to the streets to call for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to step down. Three days later, military officers removed him from power.

Protests for and against Morsi have followed and have resulted in deadly clashes. On Monday morning, Egyptian soldiers opened fire on Morsi’s supporters, killing more than 50 people and wounding at least 300. Witnesses said the soldiers fired on Morsi’s supporters while they were praying. But Egypt’s military said the soldiers were attacked first.

Morsi was Egypt’s first democratically elected president. He was elected in 2012 after the 2011 revolution against former president, Hosni Mubarak. But critics say Morsi betrayed the democratic spirit of Egypt’s 2011 revolution. They say he tried to increase the control of his political party, the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood is the country’s oldest and largest Islamist organization.

Now, the Egyptian military has made longtime judge Adli Mansour the acting president, a temporary position. At his swearing-in ceremony, Mansour said he had been given the authority and the mission “to amend and correct the revolution of the 25th of January 2011.”

A Country in Crisis

Mansour and the Egyptian military have promised that new elections for president and parliament, the country’s legislative body, will take place under the interim government.

“Nobody will be excluded, and if they respond to the invitation, they will be welcomed,” Mansour said of a future government.

However, that inclusive vision seems increasingly unlikely as the Muslim Brotherhood said it would not work with the new government. In a move that is likely to further inflame the situation, the Freedom and Justice party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political group, called on Egyptians to rise up against the army.

An Uncertain Future

After the violence Monday morning, Interim President Mansour called for restraint and ordered an investigation into the killings. Significantly, the statement from his office seemed to support the military’s version of events, saying that the killings followed an attempt to storm the Republican Guard’s headquarters. This is the name of the building where supporters believe Morsi is being kept.

Pro-reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei spoke out against the violence and also called for an investigation. “Peaceful transition is [the] only way,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi gives a televised speech on July 2—just one day before Egyptian military officers removed him from power.

EGYPTIAN STATE TELEVISION/AP
Former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi gives a televised speech on July 2—just one day before Egyptian military officers removed him from power.

Regardless of the reason for the violence, the growing chaos will further complicate Egypt’s relations with the United States. The U.S. and other allies had supported Morsi as the country’s first freely elected leader and now are rethinking policies toward the military-backed group that forced him out.

President Barack Obama announced in a statement that he was “deeply concerned” by the developments and called on the Egyptian military to “move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process.”

Still, Morsi’s supporters refuse to recognize the change in leadership and vow to continue protesting. His opponents are also holding rallies, and neither side shows sign of stopping soon.

 


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