Short cuts in Cairo

Adam Shatz writes: On 4 July, the day after the army overthrew Mohamed Morsi and suspended the constitution, I got an email from a friend in Cairo. A photograph of the 30 June demonstrations in Tahrir Square was emblazoned with the words: ‘This is not a coup’. He didn’t say what else it might be, but soon enough others did. A second revolution, a ‘people’s coup’, a ‘re-colution’: terms coined to describe how the events felt to them, or perhaps to bridge the discomfiting gap between experience and reality. It’s not the first time a coup in Egypt has been called something else: Nasser and the Free Officers who overthrew King Farouk in 1952 also called their coup a revolution. What’s different today is that the most ferocious critics of coup-talk are people like my friend, veterans of the 2011 uprising against Mubarak.

Their insistence is understandable: having brought down another hated president, they’re proud of what they’ve achieved and resent the suggestion that they’ve been manipulated – especially when it comes from Westerners. The youth movement Tamarrod collected 22 million signatures for a petition urging Morsi to resign, and organised the biggest demonstrations in Egypt’s history. You can argue that Morsi’s removal set an alarming precedent, but not that it was unpopular. You can’t even cast it as an elite secular conspiracy against the pious Islamic masses: General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, commander of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, is a devout Muslim (his wife wears a niqab) and has the support of the Salafi al-Nour party. The Salafis are to the right of the Muslim Brotherhood, but they didn’t appreciate the Brothers’ authoritarian style, and they knew an opportunity when they saw one. Within days of Morsi’s removal they flexed their muscles by blocking Mohamed ElBaradei’s appointment as interim prime minister; ElBaradei, who used to say he would never collaborate with the Scaf, accepted the vice presidency as a consolation prize. For now, an obscure jurist called Adli Mansour is acting president, and the economist Hazem el-Beblawi is prime minister. But why bother to remember the names? The ‘re-colution’ will eat its children, just as the revolution did. [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email