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What Happened in Egypt

Egyptian Revolution Pt. 2: June & July 2013

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by Leyla Lanty
posted July 24, 2013

The days from June 28 through July 3, 2013 brought significant events to Egypt, culminating in the Egyptian Army’s removal of Mohamed Morsi from the office of president.  The Army placed him and many of his fellow Muslim Brotherhood members and political appointees under house arrest.  Then, it  announced that it would soon put in place a “road map” toward a new Egyptian government and future elections.  The Army has begun since then to implement that plan.  Most of the world was caught by surprise and many wondered, “What just happened in Egypt?”, “Why did this happen?”, “Is it right?” and “What does it mean for the future of Egypt and the whole Middle East?”  I’m not a political expert, so I will only attempt to address what happened and why. 

I was in Cairo, Egypt, during the time leading up to the removal of the president and was able to ask Egyptians about the background of this story and about events as they happened.  I have also done extensive reading of news and analysis articles from what I consider to be reliable news and analysis sources.  Within this article, I hope to summarize, from an Egyptian/Middle Eastern point of view, the events that led to the mass protests against an elected government and to describe the changes that were subsequently set in motion.  I’ve included a few links to detailed articles on the Internet, and at the end, I’ve added a short list of online resources where more detailed information can be found.

On June 10, 2013, I arrived in Cairo, Egypt, for a three-week stay that would include visiting friends, attending Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival (and maybe seeing a few sights).  What I got was all that–plus what I think of as “The Egyptian Revolution, Part 2”.  A few days after my arrival, I learned that demonstrations were going to take place on June 30, the one year anniversary of Mohamed Morsi’s presidency, to protest his perceived failure in that office and his and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood’s failure to improve the state of the Egyptian economy.  Although the news of the demonstrations was unsettling, the place where I was staying, as well as the Mena House Hotel where the festival would be held, were at the southern edge of greater Cairo, almost an hour’s drive from the nearest hotspot. 

I would have to rely on my Egyptian and expatriate friends for advice whenever I wanted to move away from this safe area. 

From June 19th through June 26th, I attended the week-long Ahlan Wa Sahlan festival.  Every day, while traveling to and from the hotel, it became more evident that things were changing in the country.  By the time the festival ended, I was wondering about what was going to happen and how everyone was going to cope with it. There was a major gasoline shortage with double and triple lines of cars with their drivers waiting hours for gas, only to find out that the stations were closing because their storage tanks were empty.  During the time I’d already been in Cairo, I’d experienced several of the rolling power blackouts ordered by the government because of power shortages.   Increasingly, Egyptians were blaming the rapidly deteriorating economic conditions over the past year on Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as their political arm, the Freedom and Justice party.

As the day slated for the biggest demonstrations (June 30th) approached, my Egyptian friends told me they were stocking up on food and supplies and staying home from the 27th until after the big day and maybe beyond.  They advised me to do the same.  Everyone was nervous about what would happen on the 30th–not to mention during the three days of planned protests that would lead up to it.  No one wanted to be in the wrong place at the wrong time!  There are no guarantees; only likelihoods. 

The major demonstrations were in at least four locations in the city, including one that would be of special interest to artists of Middle Eastern music and dance that started around June 5th and continued through the 30th.  It was staged, literally, in front of the Ministry of Culture, which is responsible for maintaining and promoting the culture of Egypt, including music, dance and other arts.  Morsi had removed the Minister of Culture, Mohamed Arab, who had been the director of the national ballet, and replaced him with Alaa Abdel Aziz, a member of the Brotherhood who did not have any background in the arts. 

That new minister decided to try to ban ballet because it was “too naked for public viewing”.  This sparked a round-the-clock sit-in by many artists who took turns performing their art each evening to show their defiance.

  As of July 17th, Mr. Arab was reinstated as the Minister of Culture.  A link to an article about the sit-in is included among other links at the end of this article.

From my second week in Cairo, I began to hear and read more about the mistakes and power grabs that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood had committed over the past year and began to understand more fully the widespread anger and disappointment.  One of my Facebook friends posted a verified list of these actions that showed the Muslim Brotherhood’s steady march, led by Morsi, toward a takeover of all government minister positions, setting a path toward a dictatorship that most Egyptians feared would be worse than anything set up by Mubarak or any of his predecessors or even the ayatollahs of Iran.  What follows is a timeline for those actions, extracted from the list that my friend posted, followed by the events leading up to Morsi’s removal at the hands of the Egyptian army. After the timeline is a short list of online news and analysis sources about current events in Egypt.

  1. A few days after Mohamed Morsi took office on June 30, 2012, he issued a decree to reinstate the People’s Assembly that had just been dissolved by the Supreme Court, having been deemed unconstitutional.
  2. On July 30, Morsi gave a presidential pardon to 26 leading Islamists convicts who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Gama’a Al Islamiya, a terrorist group that had been convicted of many attacks on tourists and Egyptians.
  3. On August 2nd, Morsi appointed an Islamic Prime Minister who then hired Muslim Brotherhood members in his government with clear disregard to the national unity goals that Morsi had espoused in his presidential campaign.
  4. On August 8th, 16 Egyptian Soldiers were attacked in Sinai leaving all of them dead. Fingers were pointed at Hamas or Islamists militants in Sinai, while Morsi and the Prime Minister turned a blind eye.
  5. Also in August, although the president doesn’t have the legal right to do so, Morsi dismissed the Prosecutor General and appointed another Islamic leaning Prosecutor General in his place. 
  6. On November 22nd, Morsi issued a new constitutional declaration putting him beyond the bounds of judicial supervision.  It shielded the Constitutional Assembly (a different body from the People’s Assembly) which had been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.  It also shielded the Shoura Council, which is also dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Finally, it gave the president the power to change and appoint the Prosecutor General every 4 years, guaranteeing the Muslim Brotherhood their status above the law.
  7. In December, 2012, all non-Islamist members boycotted the Constitutional Assembly.  Morsi, along with the Muslim Brotherhood majority of the Assembly, finalized the constitution in one night with little opportunity for review or opposition by the public.
  8. On January 8, 2013, Morsi appointed 8 new ministers, including 6 from the Muslim Brotherhood.
  9. In March, 2013, The Shoura Council tried to pass a law in order to have new parliamentary elections as soon as possible, but the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.
  10. In June, 2013, Morsi appointed more ministers in the cabinet from the Muslim Brotherhood and appointed more Islamist governors in Egyptian provinces.  Most notable was the governor of Luxor, who is part of Al-Gama’a Al Islamiya that murdered 58 foreign tourists in the same province in the 1990s in an incident that is still well-remembered.

In June 2013, Anti-Islamist activists started the Tamarod (rebel) campaign, with millions signing a petition, withdrawing confidence from the president. By June 30, Tamarod had gathered over 22 million signatures; 9 million more than the number of people who voted for Morsi in the elections.

 The following points are my own timeline of what happened on and immediately after June 30th:

  1. On June 30th, by the end of the day, protesters issued an ultimatum that Morsi must leave office by Tuesday, July 2nd or they intended to start “civil disobedience.”
  2. On July 1st, Egypt’s Army handed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi an ultimatum to share power and compromise with the opposition, giving politicians from all sides 48 hours to compromise or the army would impose its own road map for the country.  The Egyptian Army saw that order was quickly breaking down because of increasing clashes between pro and anti Morsi factions and decided to step in and play the role similar to that of a referee in sports – separate the combatants and try to get them to communicate with one another.  Morsi’s refusal to cooperate and the opposition’s reluctance to negotiate led to the Army’s removal of Morsi. 
  3. On July 2, my last day in Egypt, I saw on English language TV that more people were expected on the street as Morsi had refused to recognize the 48 hour deadline.  On English language TV channels, there were interviews with two Muslim Brotherhood spokeswomen, both talking around questions rather than answering them.  In both interviews, it quickly became obvious that the representatives were reciting from a memorized script, not answering any questions but spouting the  propaganda of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice party.  I wondered  why the Muslim Brotherhood chose women for this task.  In my opinion, they certainly don’t seem to think women are capable of such pursuits as politics or public relations.

There have been many developments since I left Egypt.  By July 17 there was a basic government in place, including an interim president, vice president, prime minister and a 34-member cabinet, all chosen for their expertise rather than their ideology.  My Egyptian friends, through telephone calls, Facebook posts and emails, are expressing their new hope for the future of Egypt through this period of  transition to future elections.

To follow events in Egypt from an Egyptian/Middle Eastern perspective, check these additional online resources in addition to the links that appear in this article:

Facebook: 

  1. Egyptian Streets
  2. Al Arabiya English
  3. My home page- Leyla Lanty -where I share items from reliable sources.

Other online resources:

  1. Link to the Reuters story about the Army’s ultimatum:  reut.rs/15WkNnO
  2. Detailed list of Morsi’s acts from June, 2012 through June, 2013 can be found at picoguindy.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/whats-your-democracy
  3. In depth analysis of Muslim Brotherhood’s actions over its history as well as the meaning of recent events:  www.dailynewsegypt.com/2013/07/18/egypts-clash-of-freedoms
  4. List of new Cabinet members:  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beblawi_Cabinet
  5. About the sit-in at the Ministry of Culture:  www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/06/sit-in-warm-up-june-30-protests-in-egypt.html
  6. Al Arabiya Middle Eastern News in English:  english.alarabiya.net

Resources:

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   |       |    5 Comments

  1. No Gravatar
    Barbara Grant

    Jul 24, 2013 - 05:07:20

    Nicely done, Leyla Lanty! I appreciated your timeline and the logical manner in which you follow the facts.

  2. No Gravatar
    Dallas

    Jul 24, 2013 - 06:07:12

    I hope people make it through os and their belly dance goods are going to be made still. I love Assuit and hope they keep producing it. I wish Egypt peace and strength.

  3. No Gravatar
    Linda Roiz

    Jul 25, 2013 - 09:07:27

    Thank you so much for this very informative article. 

  4. No Gravatar
    Pauline Costianes

    Jul 29, 2013 - 03:07:08

    Thank you for your excellent article. I have been in touch with Nagy Habashny who is a vendor at alooegypt.com in Cairo. He is a Copt, and told me not to believe any American papers who said the army was taking over. He said the Egyptian people wanted Morsi and the Islamic Brotherhood out of office. His business has suffered horribly as he couldn’t get anything mailed out.  I told him we are all thinking of him, his family and all the others affected by this.

  5. No Gravatar
    Stasha Vlasuk

    Aug 4, 2013 - 06:08:41

    Leyla, thank you for a clear, timely and insightful presentation of these events. I know so many of us are thinking of Egypt and her people, sending prayers of peace and strength. I feel more hopeful having read your report, and look forward to my next visit to this compelling country.

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