Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Countdown to Ultimatum

Cairo, Egypt: 10AM

Countdown until Military Ultimatum: 6 hours, 59 min and 5 seconds

The Cover of the Muslim Brotherhood Paper "Freedom and Justice." The title says: 'The president: My blood is the price of legitimacy'

Another quiet morning in Dokki. As I have mentioned previously, days are slow to get started here even when you wake up at 6 AM. Looking out over my sleepy street, it is hard to imagine that sporadic clashes broke out last night in parts of Giza. Thankful, they were far from my neighborhood, which is peaceful.

The only word to describe Cairo right now is a bit tense. Last night, President Muhammad Morsi gave a speech in response to the military's ultimatum. Unsurprisingly, he has no intention of giving up power, reiterating over and over again that he is the legitimate governor of Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood waited over 80 years, through state repression and torture, to come to power and they were not letting it go after just 1 year in office. Morsi largely looked out of touch with the events around him, given the fact that 17 million people demonstrated in favor of his removal just days before. It has become a familiar drama in the Middle East since the outbreak of the Arab Spring. The embattled ruler gives one more speech about his resolve to stay the course in spite of outside pressure. Will Morsi go the same way as Ben Ali and Mubarak? If I was him, I would start researching islands to spend his retirement. I hear Capri is nice this time of year.

Photo by Ahmed Farag
 This speech was not well received in Egypt to say the least. We immediately received a message from the CASA Program that classes today were being canceled due to concerns about transportation. Demonstrations in Cairo have largely been peaceful but some turned violent last night as members of the Muslim Brotherhood clashed with the opposition. Some of the leadership is ratcheting up their rhetoric with Mohamed El-Beltagy urging members “to seek martyrdom” in the battle against “a military coup.” The health ministry reports that 16 people died and 559 people were injured last night.

As for the life of a student in Cairo, the American University is closed until further notice. Currently, no embassies in Egypt have required the departure or evacuation of their citizens and the American University  does not believe it is necessary for international students to leave the country. However, some programs are considering recommending the departure of their students. As evidence of how tense things are, we can elect to be evacuated at any time. I plan to remain as long as I feel safe in Cairo or until the embassy requires our evacuation. I should be back in classes tomorrow as scheduled. We also have the option to move to the AUC dorms but I plan to stay in my apartment with the Internet, TV and 24-hour delivery for now.

At the other end of the extreme, the Cairo Scholars listserve, a list for academics in Egypt, continues as if nothing is happening. A woman just posted about English books for sale in Maadi. Used books are not at the top of my list right now. Anyone dying for a copy of Everything's Eventual by Stephen King? Light reading in case the government falls?

Photo by Ahmed Farag
With only hours until the military's ultimatum, this evening is likely to see huge demonstrations and more clashes between opponents and supports of Morsi. While Morsi appears publicly defiant, the military seems to be continuing to set the groundwork for a coup. Earlier in the day, Egypt’s generals took control of the state’s newspaper, Al Ahram. It is now reporting that Muslim Brotherhood senior officials have been placed under house arrest and the group's funds have been seized. The army has also began securing facilities across Egypt including those containing weapons and ammunition. It appears that the coup is eminent. 

While any steps that reduce bloodshed seem prudent, I still oppose the military stepping in to solve this current crisis. I went back to look at the Tamrod (Rebellion) Campaign's original plan for a transition after Morsi resigned. They demanded that Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) call for early presidential elections. During the transitional period, they proposed that the chairman of the SCC become acting president and a coalition cabinet would be formed to include all the national political movements and parties. 

In terms of a transition, this seems like a much better plan that secures civilian rather than military rule. However, it is no longer on the table. Tamarod spokesperson Mahmoud Badr said today: “We salute the Army! We salute them! They have shown that they are with the people.” While not everyone is pro-military, it seems that the majority of Egyptians view a coup - they don't call it that - as the only viable option.

For now, I wait to see what happens....