Note from Cairo: Down with Morsi! Down with Military Rule!

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The tanks rolled in… And Egypt celebrates

Downtown Cairo is a live with celebrations. From my balcony, I hear the cracking of fireworks and the honking of horns. Military choppers are passing Midan at-Tahrir, dropping Egypt flags over the thousands of the people gathered there. Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has just finished speaking. Morsi has officially been deposed by the Egyptian military. As soon as he completed his statement, Cairo erupted into waves of cheering while my neighbors banged pots and pans in approval. It is the news that Egyptians have been waiting for most of the day and demonstrations will continue long into the wee hours of the morning.

Alexandria after Morsi falls.

Alexandria after Morsi falls.

This morning started out rather tense as Egyptians waited for the 48-hour ultimatum from the military to run out at 4 p.m. I spent a great deal of the afternoon reading the news and discussing events her with people. At around 1 p.m., my roommate, a friend and I  headed out for some lunch and visited a local cafe. We chatted with some of the patrons and the waiter about the current political situations. They were not sure about the this evening but largely planned to join the demonstrations in Midan at-Tahrir. They completely rejected the idea that a coup was about depose Morsi and defended the role of the military in possibly bring about the end of the current government. Just before 3pm, everyone began to clear out so we did the same, returning to wait for the military’s statement. I was pretty confident that we could not hear from them until Morsi had been removed from power but it was possible this political standoff might continue indefinitely.

Interestingly, things remained rather normal in much of Cairo during all of this turmoil. Egyptians have a way of weathering even the worst political crises. One of my friends mention that  a meter reader from the power company came by to collect last month’s electric bill during the middle of the coup. Life continued to move forward even as the government was collapsing…The military’s deadline came and went with out any statement. We waited while the various news channels tried to fill airtime. At around 6 p.m. information began to trickle in from around the city.

Egypt’s Army General was  meeting with religious, national, political and youth figures. At the same time, the military was moving decisively against the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egypt’s Republican Guards had taken control of state television’s headquarters in Cairo. By 7 p.m., any doubt that a coup was taking place vanished as tanks and soldiers moved into key location in downtown Cairo, controlling at least two bridges. Shortly broke just before 9 p.m., the news then came out that Sheikh Al Azhar,Ahmed al-Tayyeb; Mohammad il-Baradei; and Coptic Pope, Pope Tawadros II, would announce the “roadmap.” We did not have to wait a long time before al-Sisi appeared on television to make his public statement.

After al-Sisi spoke, a pundit on al-Arabiyya refereed to this move by the military as a popular coup with the help of the military, trying to come to terms with the popular support for a military takeover of power. No one is exactly sure what the next few weeks will hold but Egyptians are generally rejecting the term “coup” completely. Even for those that are apprehensive about the future, this is the will of the Egyptian people. During al-Sisi’s speech, people broke down into tears of happiness, welcoming a future without Morsi and the Brotherhood.

The fact that the military deposed its first elected government is deeply problematic for the future of Egypt and the development of democratic institutions. The idea that the military is a neutral body in Egyptian society, completely misunderstands their role as well as their entrenched political and economic interests. Fundamentally, they have sought in the past to marginalization the energy of the revolutionary movement in order to secure the interests of the Egyptian economic elite. Any faith in them seems misplaced. Even those that welcome this development, need to not forget the dark days of the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) (For more on this please see: When Democracy Dies to Roaring Applause).
Military gets in position, 5 minutes from author's apartment in Cairo.

Military gets in position, 5 minutes from author’s apartment in Cairo.

In spite of my misgivings, there were some relatively positive developments given the circumstances. The program that al-Sisi announced is largely the same one proposed by the Tamarod (Rebellion) Campaign before June 31. This include calling for early elections and the appointment of Adel Mansour, the head of the Constitutional Court, as the head of the transitional government. Therefore, the interim government will at least in theory be a civilian rather than a military government. The problem is that in the past the military has used the civilian government as a cover for their own rule. After the revolution in 2011,  Dr. Essam Sharaf, then prime minister of the transitional government, turned out to be a mere puppet of the SCAF. I do not envy Adel Mansour his new position.

There are also some other early developments that give many Egyptians and myself  serious pause. There is an ongoing crackdown happening against the Islamist media channels, and journalists are being rounded up at the Muslim Brotherhood-run Misr 25 and at the Salafist in-Nas and il-Hafez. For the future of freedom of expression, this seems troubling. There has also been reports of the violent suppression of those that remain loyal to Morsi around Egypt including in Cairo.

From the other side, Morsi is missing. Before his disappearance, he rejected army road map, referring to it as a coup and arguing that he remains Egypt’s legitimate president. Although many of their allies have abandoned them, it is unclear what percentage of the Muslim Brotherhood plans to continue to oppose the military but four people have already been killed in the clashes between pro-Morsi and army inMersa Matruh this evening. This may be the dying gasps of armed opposition or the opening shots of a longer conflict. My instincts say the former but its too early to tell.

My thoughts on the whole situation are: Down with Morsi! Down with Military Rule!

After all this, the US State Department is recommending that U.S. citizens living in Egypt depart at this time because of the continuing political and social unrest. Due to this uncertainty, the International Office at the University of Texas is evacuating all of the CASA Fellows, at least temporarily. It is unclear if this will be permanent and what this means for my future studies in Egypt. After a long day of waiting, one questions has been answered but many others still remain.

Congratulations Egypt. Morsi is gone. Tomorrow is a new day…