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Noura Erakat sees Morsi ouster as ‘another stage of an ongoing revolution’

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All of us are rapt over events in Egypt and trying to sort them out and figure out how to think about them. This post first appeared on Noura Erakat’s blog. It contains a number of excellent links.

As we bear witness to one of the most dramatic junctures in Egypt’s history, it is easy to take a stark position, with the revolution or against the coup. As we think about these events, we need to be much more militant (no pun intended) about sparing nuance from our analytical chopping block. Although there is something undeniably troubling about the coup, there seems to a reactionary defense of “electoral democracy” in Egypt that does away with a context wherein:

  • The Brotherhood failed to govern. It had a revolutionary mandate which makes Morsi’s comparison to Barack Obama or Francois Hollande completely out of place- folks are not angry because he failed to redefine Egypt’s foreign policy or “fix” the economy in a year- this is about the failure to reform the security sector, to hold the SCAF to account for 800 deaths during the Jan 25th movement, the expansion of executive powers, the blunder of the constitutional referendum, the gutting of an independent judiciary, and the failure to create a broad coalition.
  • The protesters are certainly not just feloul [remnants of the regime]–who are definitely there–together with AUC elites and hipsters filling Egypts streets, as critics have asserted. Stepping into the  middle of Tahrir or Alexandria or Raabia Al-Adawiya would quickly demonstrate the contrary. The likes of the Revolutionary Socialists and other progressive pro-labor groups are not AUC elites or elitist in any sense, for instance, and they backed this movement.
  • As to external interests and support- the US and Qatar have talked about both sides of their mouth on this issue and pointing fingers at them right now will have you running in circles, so best to focus on the ground itself. 
  • The Tamarod petition had 22 million unique signatures collected by on-foot canvassing that asked for an electoral vote- if it is really about a commitment to the ballot box- then here was an opportunity. Thereafter, 17.5 million Egyptians demanding an alternative cannot be dismissed because of this awful outcome. If democracy is about the will of the people, then let the people speak for themselves. And let us not impose upon them our conceptions of democracy which are certainly incomparable to the history and context of Egyptian politics, with all its nuance and regional/international connections. We are witnessing but another stage of an ongoing revolution after decades of rocky post-colonial development. 

None of this is to celebrate this outcome but it is to temper our swift rejection of it.  As Hesham Sallam pointed out, the binary between military coup and democracy is misleading in this instance. Egyptians who have been part of this movement are simultaneously joyous as well as skeptical of Tamarod’s alliances. They are calling it a revolution and simultaneously criticizing the military’s clamp down on the freedom of speech as well as the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood leaders. As those with the comfort to watch from abroad, I think the least we can do is exercise the same level of nuance and complexity that Egyptians, who have tirelessly fought for their freedom and dignity have done since January 2011 and well before, have done.  

Having said all that, I do not think that the weeks and months ahead will produce automatic progress. To the contrary, absent the continuing vigilance of Egypt’s people power, things can take a dramatic turn for the worse. Although the Egyptian street has not been naive in its planning and approach, it is now open to possibility that the military use this unprecedented popular showing as an instrument to reassert itself. 

A LOT has been written about Egypt in the past few days- and that’s an understatement. To help you navigate through it here are my suggested readings: 

Down With Military Rule…Again?, Hesham Sallam 
Sallam unpacks the misleading binary between military coup and democracy as he places current events in Egypt into vivid context. 

The Seven Deadly Sins of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khaled Fahmy 
Fahmy explains how the Muslim Brotherhood has been its own worst enemy in its twelve-months in power. 

Why the Western Media Are Getting Egypt Wrong?, Khaled Shaalan
Shaalan takes on simplistic and overeager media who have reduced current events in Egypt into a battle between the military and Islamists.  

Egypt’s Democratic Outlaws, Abdullah Al-Arian 
Al-Arian inserts at least two new elements into the conversation worth considering: 1) the reaction to the Muslim Brotherhood’s missteps are especially harsh precisely because of the Brotherhood’s legacy within Egypt; and 2) the ousting of President Morsi has foreclosed, “possibly forever, the opportunity to witness the Muslim Brotherhood humbled through its preferred method of political contestation.”

For ongoing developments, I suggest following Jadaliyya’s Egypt Page.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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11 Responses

  1. Kathleen on July 5, 2013, 11:10 am

    Thanks Phil and Noura..

  2. ritzl on July 5, 2013, 11:19 am

    We’ll see if this is just the next step in Egyptian democracy if this time around Egypt scraps the byzantine electoral and government structure that was put in place a couple of years ago, and moves toward a straight parliamentary system.

    It was the SCAF that insisted on the “strong” presidency because they thought their guy was going to win and they wanted the “stability” of him not being able to be removed by a change in popular will. He didn’t win. Now a coup, ostensibly because the guy that did win wasn’t reflecting the popular will.

    A parliamentary system would solve that problem and gradually diminish overt military manipulation of the Egyptian revolutionary/political process. Let SCAF run a SCAF list or whatever mechanism is adopted to field candidates. That would be progress.

    I wish Egypt and its people well.

  3. Binyamin in Orangeburg on July 5, 2013, 11:22 am

    Absent from many of these commentator’s analyses is a hard look at the underlying economic condition of Egypt. The Nile delta is one of the most fertile places on the planet, yet Egypt is the largest wheat importer on the planet. While agricultural productivity has skyrocketed all over the developing world, over 40% of Egypt’s workforce continues to toil on small plots with primitive farm tools. The Nile supplies nearly all of the fresh water the country consumes. The water supply has remained constant for the past five decades, yet the population has doubled, and will double again in another 20 years.

    Many of these problems cannot be addressed until one root issue is resolved: the freedom of women.

    Two examples: (1) Studies show that population growth declines in direct proportion to female education and integration into the market economy. Instead, Egypt has the highest rate of clitoridectomy in the Arab world, something like 60%.

    (2) There is not now, and there have never been, Arab “nations” in the modern sense of that word. What there are, are loose tribal alliances that form a weak authority within national boundaries. Look at Iraq, Syria and Libya. These tribal alliances — and conflicts — are based on sectarian religious identity. The basis of tribalism is genetic relationship — i.e. the tribe is made up of family groups linked by intermarriage. That system requires that a male patriarchy selects marriage partners for the women of the family, and that selection is based on optimizing tribal interest. Once you crush patriarchy, you crush cousin marriage, and once you do that, you open the way to consigning tribalism and religious sectarianism to the scrap heap of history. Now political structures are based on class interest, not tribal interest, and that is an innovation.

    Once the suffocating power of patriarchal society falls, Egypt, and the Arab world, can come out of the dark ages and into the light of a Renaissance. Once that happens, you get modern agriculture, modern democracy, and modern armies.

  4. annie on July 5, 2013, 3:03 pm

    thank you Noura Erakat. especially this:

    folks are not angry because he failed to redefine Egypt’s foreign policy or “fix” the economy in a year- this is about the failure to reform the security sector, to hold the SCAF to account for 800 deaths during the Jan 25th movement, the expansion of executive powers, the blunder of the constitutional referendum, the gutting of an independent judiciary, and the failure to create a broad coalition.

    and by all means read Khaled Fahmy

    and here:

  5. American on July 5, 2013, 3:41 pm

    Other tidbits to consider.
    ElBaradei was a candidate in the 2011 revolt but withdrew because according to him his group wasn’t organized and the Brotherhood was so he couldn’t win against them.
    So has his group been organizing the past 2 years enough to win in new elections?

    Prominent Egyptian Liberal Says He Sought West’s Support for Uprising
    Published: July 4, 2013
    CAIRO — Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Prize-winning diplomat and Egypt’s most prominent liberal, said Thursday that he had worked hard to convince Western powers of what he called the necessity of forcibly ousting President Mohamed Morsi, contending that Mr. Morsi had bungled the country’s transition to an inclusive democracy.

    In an interview, Mr. ElBaradei also defended the widening arrests of Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood allies and the shutdown of Islamist television networks that followed the removal of Mr. Morsi on Wednesday by Egypt’s generals.
    “The security people obviously are worried — there was an earthquake and we have to make sure that the tremors are predicted and controlled,” he said.
    “They are taking some precautionary measures to avoid violence; well, this is something that I guess they have to do as a security measure,” he said. “But nobody should be detained or arrested in anticipation unless there is a clear accusation, and it has to be investigated by the attorney general and settled in a court.”
    Mr. ElBaradei, whose precise role in the interim government that is replacing Mr. Morsi’s is still unclear, vowed to ensure that “everybody who is being rounded up or detained, it is by order of the attorney general — and being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood is no crime.”
    In tandem with the military’s ouster of Mr. Morsi, the judicial authorities replaced the attorney general he had appointed, reinstating the prosecutor installed by Hosni Mubarak, the autocratic president ousted in Egypt’s 2011 revolution.
    The Mubarak appointee, Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, spent years in office prosecuting Islamists. But Mr. ElBaradei said the generals had assured him that this time would be different because they intended to operate as an institution in a civilian democracy, with respect for due process and the rule of law…

    Next question.. how will the ‘liberal ‘ protest political party control what they set loose or employed–the military security apparatus and the old Mubarak elements that are reappearing?

    Crackdown on Morsi supporters Deepens
    Muslim Broptherhood Rounded Up

    CAIRO — Remnants of Egypt’s old government reasserted themselves on Thursday within hours of the military ouster of the country’s first freely elected president, in a crackdown that left scores of his Muslim Brotherhood backers under arrest, their television stations closed and former officials restored to powerful posts.
    The actions provided the first indications of what Egypt’s new political order could look like after Mohamed Morsi, the Islamist president in power for only a year, was deposed by Egypt’s military commanders on Wednesday evening.
    The commanders, who installed an interim civilian leader, said they had acted to bring the country back together after millions of Egyptians demonstrated against Mr. Morsi, claiming he had arrogated power, neglected the economy and worsened divisions in society.
    By late Thursday, it was already clear that the forced change of power, which had the trappings of a military coup spurred by a popular revolt, had only aggravated the most seething division — that between the Muslim Brotherhood and the security apparatus built up by Hosni Mubarak, the president toppled in Egypt’s 2011 revolution.
    The divisions belied a stately ceremony in the country’s highest court, where a little-known judge was sworn in as the new acting head of state. The interim president, the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adli Mansour, said he looked forward to parliamentary and presidential elections that would express the “true will of the people.” Mr. Mansour praised the military’s intervention so that Egypt could “correct the path of its glorious revolution.”
    At the same time, security forces held Mr. Morsi incommunicado in an undisclosed location, Islamist broadcast outlets were closed and prosecutors sought the arrest of hundreds of Mr. Morsi’s Brotherhood colleagues, in a sign that they had the most to lose in Egypt’s latest political convulsion.
    “What kind of national reconciliation starts with arresting people?” asked Ebrahem el-Erian after security officials came to his family home before dawn to try to arrest his father, Essam el-Erian, a Brotherhood official. “This is complete exclusion.”

    Mr. Morsi never succeeded in asserting his control over the military, the security services, the judiciary or the sprawling state bureaucracy. Nor was he able to dismantle the support network that Mr. Mubarak and his National Democratic Party cultivated through nearly 30 years in power.
    So once the military removed Mr. Morsi, many of these elements set their sights on him and his group.
    “What do you call it when the police, state security, old members of the National Democratic Party, the media all rally to bring down the regime?” asked Emad Shahin, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo. “Is that a revolution? If this is the revolution, so be it.”

    Dozens were arrested, including Mohamed Badie, the group’s supreme guide; his deputy, Rashad Bayoumi; and the head of its political wing, Saad el-Katatni. Also on the wanted list was Khairat el-Shater, the group’s powerful financier and strategist.
    The arrest campaign recalled the Muslim Brotherhood’s decades as a banned organization under autocratic rulers.


    Looks like it’s going to be a ongoing game of musical chairs to me.
    If a liberal like ElBaradei wins he cant really ‘democratize’ Egypt without taking some power away from the Egyptian ‘securty establishment’.

    • Keith on July 5, 2013, 7:34 pm

      AMERICAN- “Looks like it’s going to be a ongoing game of musical chairs to me.”

      I agree that in the short run this is the most likely outcome. All of this talk about “revolution” is romantic nonsense. A true revolution fundamentally alters the structures of power, something which is unlikely to happen and which would bring its own problems. Get rid of the top army generals and take over the 40% of the economy administered by the army? Ya, sure, you betcha. And if that unlikely scenario actually happened, then what? Egypt is broke and needs loans to buy food to feed the people. Loans which come with strings attached. The Egyptian people are between a rock and a hard place, and it has nothing to do with Islam or intrinsic factors, and everything to do with neoliberal globalization. Things look bleak to me.

    • Kathleen on July 7, 2013, 12:26 pm

      Hate to think that El Baradei was pushing for a military coup in response to a democratically elected Morsi.

  6. MHughes976 on July 5, 2013, 4:25 pm

    Peter Popham in the Independent argues that armies in ex-colonial countries are the natural heirs of the colonial power, taking advantage of enormous opportunities to enrich their leaders, that they naturally engender ideological opposition, which if it comes to power is paralysed by inexperience and the need to reward prominent supporters, so that the former military power ‘comes roaring back’, starting the cycle all over again. The army is of course the natural recipient of support from the major imperial powers, who know where they are with it can trust it to look after their basic interests.
    There is truth in this, except that there seem to be three rather than two players on the Egyptian scene, the religious movement with massive rural support, the urban secularists and the huge military-industrial complex. Perhaps this just makes things worse, with the constant formation of ‘2 against 1’ alliances which can never last. No one is going to produce prosperity and employment in short order. The only hope is that each turn of the cycle produces a bit more experience and wisdom. But this is going to take decades, isn’t it? The immediate prospect of ElBaradei as articulate, highly educated front man for a massively selfish MI complex, supported by a well-meaning congregation of western experts, military advisers and money-men – rather like Graham Greene’s Quiet Americans – is rather sickening to me. Though I fully respect the opinions of those like Taxi, who know the scene so much better than me and who think that this is something that had to happen.

  7. just on July 5, 2013, 5:48 pm

    I hope and pray for the best for the Egyptian people.

    I hope that the dying and wounding ends quickly– so sad.

    We’ve been through many terrible & horrific “growing pains” right here, and it is ongoing.

  8. Citizen on July 6, 2013, 9:55 am

    Really? Since this stage of the “on-going revolution” in Egypt would have been much harder to accomplish without support from the Egyptian Military, the question is why was that most powerful organization in Egypt prompted to be so complicit we get descriptors such as “a soft coup”? This sounds like a clarification to me: Brigadier General (Ret.) Ayman Salama, who teaches at Cairo’s Military Academy, told the BBC World Service Newshour that part of the reason the army had overthrown Morsi was his alleged collaboration with Hamas against Egypt.

    Morsi declined the Egyptian Military request to fill in the border tunnels, saying the Palestinans needed a breather from their cramped open air prison. I’d guess that was a major motive for the Egyptian military partnering in the soft coup. Why? Because US foreign military aid to Egypt assures that military’s power and material security and comfort (while the Arab St goes to hell in a handbasket, which it’s been doing for decades). Yes, given the overwhelming power of the Egyptian military in every aspect of Egyptian life and economy, I’d say, no matter the internal factions, the regime, Israel is the elephant in every Egyptian room because of the string attached to which is guaranteeing Israel’s welfare, a condition precedent for billions of US military aid to Egypt.

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