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Given Egypt’s continued turmoil and bloodshed, is it the United States’ role to intervene in the crisis?
Journalism is inherently a fickle business. It’s all too common for the media to bounce from crisis to crisis, as has been the case recently in the Middle East. When the spotlight shifted from Egypt to Syria earlier this year, it was easy enough for us to assume that, in the absence of daily news coverage, that conditions in Egypt had improved. That, unfortunately, is far from the reality of the situation on the ground: Egypt remains a nation mired in deep-seeded violent conflict.
Here’s a brief rundown of what’s happening (This is adapted from an article on PBS Frontline):
The most recent conflict in Egypt is rooted in a 2011 popular uprising against the dictatorial regime of President Hosni Mubarak. Following nearly three weeks of protests centered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, in which hundreds were killed by government forces, Mubarak in February handed over power to the military’s ruling body — known as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. He was imprisoned and the nation’s constitution and parliament were immediately disbanded.
With Mubarak’s former prime minister chosen to head the new council, the military laid out a six-month timeframe to draft a new constitution and hold new parliamentary and presidential elections. They promised to cede power to a newly elected civilian government. Shortly thereafter, however, the military violently suppressed new protests, arresting hundreds.
Parliamentary elections began in November. The lengthy process resulted in overwhelming victories for Islamist parties in both houses, putting the Islamists firmly in control of the parliament. By the spring of 2012, Egypt’s presidential elections commenced, and amidst an initial field of 13 candidates, two finalists emerged: Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, and Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister under Mubarak. But, the day before the June runoff, the military made another power grab, shutting down parliament and awarding itself sweeping new powers, including, among other things, control over the budget and the authority to issue new laws. Soon thereafter, Morsi was elected Egypt’s new president — its first Islamist head of state – even as the office now held significantly less power. He was sworn in on June 30, 2012, promising to be a president to “all Egyptians.”
But things began to heat up almost immediately, when Morsi attempted to reclaim his presidential powers by ordering the top Mubarak-era military leadership to retire, nullified the military’s June declaration and chose Gen. Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, the former head of military intelligence, as his defense minister.
By November, Morsi had granted himself additional powers. Meanwhile, a new constitution drafted by a coalition of ruling Islamic parties, was widely criticized by human rights groups for side-lining the rights of women, Christians and intellectuals. By early December, a new round of protests had erupted, and by January, demonstrators returned to Tahrir Square, to protest against Morsi’s government.
Over the next several months, the protests – some of which involved violent clashes with police – spread quickly. By April of 2013, a new full-fledged movement had emerged, led by a group of young Egyptians, known as “Tamarod,” or rebel, who circulated a petition demanding Morsi’s resignation and new elections. The group also called for mass protests on the June anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration.
In mid-June (2013), Tamarod claimed to have gathered 22 million signatures on its petition, and Sisi, Morsi’s Defense Minister, issued a public warning that the growing split between Morsi’s supporters and their opponents might compel the military “to intervene.”
By late June, Egypt again erupted in protest, with millions demanding that Morsi step down. The mass demonstrations prompted Sisi to give Morsi an ultimatum to resolve the situation within 48 hours or relinquish power. And on July 3, Morsi was removed from power and placed under house arrest.
Soon thereafter, the new military leadership, led by Sisi, suspended the constitution, shut down several Islamist media outlets and issues hundreds of arrest warrants for Muslim Brotherhood officials. Morsi’s supporters declared the action a “military coup.”
By early July, Sisi had chosen Supreme Court Chief Justice Adly Mansour to serve as Egypt’s interim president and a interim cabinet with no Islamist members.
Since then, Egypt has been in a perpetual state of unrest, replete with bloody protests, assassination attempts and the release of former President Hosni Mubarak from prison, a major slap in the face to millions of protestors who fought, back in 2011, for him to be brought to justice.
Throughout the conflict, the United States has been hesitant to intervene, as it has long relied on Egypt as a strategic Middle East ally in the middle of a volatile region. In a statement in August, Obama said the he “strongly condemns the steps that have been taken” by the government and security forces, and cancelled a biannual joint military exercise with Egypt that was scheduled for September. However, he did not go as far as cutting the $1.3 billion the U.S. provides annually in military aid.
“America cannot determine the future of Egypt,” he said.
New York Times video Calls for End to Violence in Egypt
The Obama administration on Wednesday condemned the Egyptian military’s bloody crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protesters, but showed no signs of taking any tough steps, like suspending American aid, in response.
To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #DoNowEgypt
For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.
We encourage students to reply to other people’s tweets to foster more of a conversation. Also, if students tweet their personal opinions, ask them to support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can… and any contribution is most welcomed.
PBS NewsHour Extra article New Clashes Kill Dozens in Egypt
New deadly clashes have swept across Egypt killing dozens of protesters, civilians and soldiers. More than 50 people were killed Sunday, Oct. 6 as Egyptians celebrated the 40 anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli. The violence started when Cairo police and armed citizens used tear gas and gunfire to prevent Islamist protesters from joining the war anniversary celebration in Tahrir Square. Officials estimate that over 250 people were injured in the clashes.
New York Times video Obama Deplores Crackdown in Egypt
The president announced that the United States had canceled joint military exercises with Egypt next month in response to the violent move to end protests.
New York Times video Two Narratives of the Violence in Egypt
With hundreds of protesters dead, supporters and opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood are circulating opposing videos to push each side’s view of the calamity.