Though the initial Arab Spring protests received a great deal of coverage, except for a few diaries, the recent turmoil in Egypt has generated little discussion here. But now things in that nation have taken a turn for the worse.
After successfully navigating a minefield in the flare-up of violence (with the help of U.S. Secretary of State Clinton) between Israel and Hamas, Egyptian President Morsi was on the way towards helping Egypt regain it's role as a regional power broker. But then... the other foot came down.
President Morsi, then went on to try to change the Egyptian revolution and subsequent elections which had swept him (and his religious cohorts) into power in the wake of the deposing of Egyptian Dictator Hosni Mubarak. Morsi, decided that to "save democracy" he had to destroy democracy. More to the point, he declared himself free of constraints in ruling and had a new constitution drafted.
However, many people in Egypt didn't particularly like this action and have taken to the streets in an attempt to defend their newly found democratic rights. In recent days, pro-Morsi demonstrators and anti-Morsi demonstrators have clashed with a number of people winding up dead, over 700 people injured, the Presidential palace barricaded, and the Presidents family evacuated from their home.
So here is the news from today:
Egyptian protesters broke through a barbed wire barricade keeping them from the presidential palace in Cairo on Friday and some climbed onto army tanks and waved flags.Both sides seem to be seeing this as a fight for Egypt's future. Pro-Morsi demonstrators had this to say"
Up to 10,000 protesters had been penned behind the barrier, guarded by tanks that were deployed on Thursday after a night of violence between supporters and opponents of the Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, in which seven people were killed.
The two camps in the country's divide appeared at a deadlock, after President Mohammed Morsi gave a fiery televised speech Thursday night denouncing his opponents and refusing to call off a referendum on a draft constitution promulgated by his allies, even as he appealed for dialogue. The opposition rejected talks, saying he must first cancel the referendum and meet other demands.
"Egypt is Islamic, it will not be secular, it will not be liberal," the crowd chanted in a funeral procession filling streets around the mosque. During the funeral, thousands chanted, "With blood and soul, we redeem Islam," pumping their fists in the air. Mourners yelled that opposition leaders were "murderers."As prime benefactors of Egypt, the U.S. can and does have a role to play here. As we did during the overthrow of the Dictator Mubarak, and with the subsequent Egyptian elections we need to put our weight behind the democratic process that the Egyptians set in motion in the first place. While one can understand why the President would "play his cards close to the vest", what with things in the Middle East Region taking continually more dangerous turns, it is also important that the President let the Egyptian people know that he (and the United States) stands on the side of Democracy.
One hardline cleric speaking to the crowd denounced anti-Morsi protesters as "traitors." Another declared that they will not allow Egypt to become "a den of hash smokers."
"We march on this path in sacrifice for the nation and our martyrs," a leading Brotherhood figure, Mohammed el-Beltagy, told the crowd. "We will keep going even if we all become martyrs. We will avenge them or die like them.
President Morsi was and still maybe the democratic choice by the people of Egypt, however, just because that happened does not mean that as the democratic choice of the nation he has the power or right to destroy the very democracy that put him into power. I would bet, that had people known what he was going to attempt to do (though history should have been a guide given his background with the Brotherhood) he would not have been able to forge the coalition of liberals AND Islamists that he did to win the election in the first place.
So for President Obama, I believe the administration (and our nation) should stand up forcefully and publicly and be counted as a voice urging President Morsi to reconsider the path he seems to be on and to scrap his new constitution and attempts to destroy the budding democracy that Egypt is trying to build. Just as we fought voter suppression here in the U.S. when Republicans tried it, shouldn't we reflect that in our relationships with our allies? I urge everyone here to write to congress and let the Egyptian people know that we stand with them in their desire to preserve Democracy in their nation.