Ismail Serageldin

Statements & Reflections

Birth Pangs of Egypt’s New Republic


The Egyptian Revolution corrected its path on the 30th of June 2013 when unprecedented numbers of Egyptians, in their tens of millions, signed individual declarations asking President Morsi to step down, and took to the streets and said “No” to the rule of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The Morsi supporters were a much smaller minority on the scale of Egypt, and were largely concentrated in two squares in Cairo and the Qaid Ibrahim Mosque Area in Alexandria, with scattered bands elsewhere. In the face of this overwhelming public disavowal of the government and in the absence of a formal procedure to impeach the president, the army joined the leaders of the opposition, the religious leaders of the country and the judiciary to force a change of government. It was no coup, it was a genuine people’s revolution.

After Morsi was toppled and the interim government was installed, people were ready to start a new chapter. But the escalation in the rhetoric of the MB continued, and calls for fighting, violence and attacking “the enemies of Islam” emerged, even calling for “Shihada” (martyrdom) for the reinstatement of Morsi. The Brotherhood having lost their bid to entrench themselves in power, tried to argue that the people were split and the army had sided with their opponents in a brazen coup, and was using violence against Morsi supporters. Having failed to mass the larger numbers this time, the MB wanted to turn to violence instead, while maintaining their demonstrators in the streets to show the world that it is a case of the Military using force against civilians. They have now activated full blast their allies in Sinai, and a full scale military operation there is probable.

Regretfully, violence has reared its ugly head in what was largely a non-violent revolution since the 25th of January 2011 and renewed on the 30th of June 2013 by largely peaceful demonstrations. Some 50 people were killed in front of the Presidential Guards complex. We need a full investigation to clarify what happened, and find the guilty in this and all the other acts of violence since 25 January 2011. Every attack, every death, has to be accounted for professionally, transparently and in the context of the law.

July 26th was a historic day as, in response to General Sisi’s call, even more Egyptians took to the streets everywhere, to show the world their support for the interim government and to give the armed forces and the police a clear “mandate to fight terrorism and violence”. The mood at these demonstrations was generally quite festive, and General Sisi became everyone’s hero. The Morsi supporters remained entrenched in the two squares in Cairo and the Qaid Ibrahim Mosque in Alexandria, with very minor scatterings in other cities.

But soon violence erupted again, and exchange of gunfire started in several places. Casualties fell from both sides, and from the Police. For the first time bullets hit the glass of the Library of Alexandria’s glass façade and the blood of a man was spilled on our steps where the revolutionaries of Egypt had previously made human chains to ensure that throughout all the events since 2011 not a stone was thrown at this iconic building. Although the Library was not a target, and the bullets were stray bullets from street gunfights, it is still a sorry day for all of us. A historic and largely joyful day for most Egyptians has been marred by the horror of the violence, the agony of the wounded, and the grief of death.

Egypt has turned a page and is writing a new chapter in the history of its second revolution. Sadly, part of that is now written in blood. Along with others, I decry all loss of life, and I warn that censorship is still a breach of free speech that should be resisted. I have called for national reconciliation of all Egyptians. That is the path for the future. But emotions are running high, and few are willing to listen to this appeal at present.

But the amazing spirit of the Egyptian people will transcend that moment, and in the largely non-violent way that has been distinctively theirs, they will find a path towards national reconciliation. My faith in Egyptian youth is enormous. Our nation will ultimately find its unity and its strength in openness, freedom and the rule of law. 

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