The following is an English translation. The original Arabic can be found here: الثوره مصر
All photographs by Aliaa El Sandouby. All rights reserved.
IT WAS LATE IN JUNE 2013 when I took my children and returned home to Cairo to spend the summer holidays. We arrived less than a week before the opposition protests planned for the 30th. As we flew into Cairo, thousands were leaving the country over fear of what was to happen there shortly. The narrative below is not a record of the events that took place in Egypt this summer; rather, these are snapshots of experiences and events that are still unfolding as Egypt transitions one more time towards democracy.
June 24, 2013
Cairo airport, a little after midnight
As our car leaves the airport parking lot, my brother, Aly, asks the guy who collects our parking fee what will happen on the 30th. “We will go out on the 28th, we will not wait for the 30th!” the man shouts while jumping from his chair.
The Tamarod (“rebel”) campaign has been gathering signatures for a popular impeachment of President Morsy since April. The campaign, which calls for withdrawing confidence in Morsy and holding early presidential elections, demands the instatement of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court chief justice as interim president. I signed the Tamarod form online early on, before they decided to take down their website and the campaign gained momentum on the ground everywhere in Egypt. When I first heard of Tamarod, I thought of a similar petition for change in Egypt that I had signed back in 2010. This was just a few weeks after the return of Muhammad El Baradei, former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel Peace laureate, to Egypt in February of that year. ElBaradei had, with various opposition figures, established the National Association for Change which soon listed seven political reform demands and started collecting signatures from Egyptians. The demands included asking Mubarak to end the repressive state of emergency, to allow local and international monitors and judicial oversight of the upcoming elections, and to allow Egyptian expats to cast their votes at Egyptian embassies abroad. I signed online as soon as NAC announced that their website was up. It was not easy to put one’s name and national ID number on a petition like this during Mubarak’s time. Perhaps I was not reluctant to publicly voice political dissent back then because I was abroad. I convinced my mother to sign later. By July 2010, NAC announced that they had gathered more than 250,000 signatures. A few months later, Mubarak was forced out of office.
June 26, 2013
The city seems more chaotic than ever, even by Cairene standards. It is always painful every time I come home to notice the decline of my beloved city, the capital of umm el dunya (“the mother of the world”) over the years. Buildings are never maintained. No one appears to be picking up litter and rising piles of garbage appear at every street corner. Traffic has become impossible and in most roads no one is running it. This time it seems as if there is no functioning government here.
We did not see real change in the way government functions in Egypt after the January 2011 revolution. In many ways, the country is now worse off than when Mubarak stepped down. When the Brotherhood came to power they promised to implement their Nahda (“Renaissance”) Project and pledged to tackle urgent problems such as traffic, fuel shortages, and poor public sanitation during Morsy’s first 100 days in office. One year later, the problems have worsened and the Brotherhood’s Nahda Project remains a big mystery.
As we drive through Cairo, Mahmoud, the driver, tells me about the anger felt by people in his small town in Sharqiya, north of Cairo. He is from Morsy’s hometown. Fuel shortages, widespread electricity blackouts, and lack of security have devastated the people there. They plan on protesting on the 30th to demand that Morsy leave. I notice the unusually long queues of trucks, buses, and cars waiting by the gas stations. Mahmoud is worried about violent clashes because in his hometown everyone knows everyone and there is a significant Brotherhood presence. I ask him about what he thinks the solution is. “The army should finish this,” he says. I hear this same statement from my colleagues at the university later that day.
June 27, 2013
Morsy spoke to the nation last night. “It is only one revolution!” he told us. He apparently decided we are allowed to topple only one dictator. As I listened to Morsy shouting at us for two and a half hours about his “shar‘iya” (“legitimacy”), I realized that he wanted people to kill each other for him to stay in power. His speeches throughout this past year have been both depressing and grounds for laughter. Bassem Youssef, the host of Egypt’s popular satirical show El Bernameg, has been using Morsy’s absurd comments at home and abroad as comedic material on his show that airs every Friday. I remember how Morsy spoke in strange English about how “drunk and driving don’t mix” and how Egyptians are “versus not against” each other and other bizarre statements about conspirators “[sticking their] fingers inside Egypt.” He repeatedly addressed his “family and clan” in his speeches and sought to only please his group’s core constituency of supporters. During the conference he held to support Syria two weeks ago, he listened in agreement to his fellow Islamists promoting sectarianism, cursing the opposition and calling those planning to protest on the 30th “infidels and crusaders.”
It takes less than an hour to get to the opera house in Zamalek from El Tagamo (the suburb in New Cairo where I stay at my brother’s house). The streets are eerily calm considering that it is Thursday evening, usually the day with the worst traffic. People have mostly stayed home in anticipation of the June 30 protests. My brother has been buying food over the past few days, just in case stores close after the 30th. We have tickets to the Opera that we had purchased weeks ago. When we finally arrive in Zamalek, we find out that the show has been canceled because of safety concerns. It feels as if a big storm is approaching.
June 30, 2013
It is the one-year anniversary of Morsy’s inauguration into the presidency.
The defiant spirit of Tamarod (“rebellion”) is articulated visually throughout the city. Everywhere you go you can see Tamarod posters pasted on the walls or on car windows inviting people to get out on the 30th and demand early presidential elections. “Enzel!” (“Get down to protest”) the Tamarod signs challenge us. Egyptian flags and signs saying “erhal” (“Go!”) hang outside of balconies and windows in apartment buildings. Graffiti mocking the president and his group, the Muslim Brotherhood, can be seen on street walls everywhere.
“Early presidential elections to get out of the Brotherhood’s cesspit!” Walls of the Egyptian Museum, Tahrir Square, July 2013.
“We don’t need fucking beard. We need bread!” Walls of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, July 2013.
“The Brotherhood are liars and murderers who belong in jail!” Heliopolis, July 7, 2013.
The visual landscape of the streets in Cairo has changed tremendously since the start of the revolution. Egyptians were denied access to public space for decades under the repressive Mubarak regime. They have now reclaimed their public space and their streets after decades of censorship and fear. This public space hard won by the people is now visually animated with graffiti and street art with revolutionary signs that question and challenge Morsy’s authority. The walls of Muhammad Mahmoud Street, close to Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, have particularly become an open-air exhibition of colorful murals that capture and document important events of the revolution. Also in the downtown area, the concrete walls that were set up by security forces as barricades following violent clashes with protesters have been transformed into colorful murals. One of those barricade walls, recently taken down by the government, was painted with a simple statement in Arabic: “eftahu al-shari‘” or “open the street!” Over in Heliopolis, the outer walls of the presidential palace are now covered with graffiti aimed at Morsy. “Your ballot-box legitimacy was finished with the [coffin] boxes of our martyrs!” is sprayed in black on the palace’s wall.
There is no pro-Morsy graffiti at this point in the city. While they were in power, the Brotherhood criticized this practice as “vandalism.”
“Freedom, love, equality Januray 25th” Sidewalk drawing on the curb of al-Marghany Street, Heliopolis, June 2011.
Mural in Muhammad Mahmoud Street, close to Tahrir Sqaure displays hopeful statements such as: “Lift your head up, you are an Egyptian!” and “January 25th, the revolution of the youth.” The themes of this street’s murals changed with changes in events. Image taken in July 2011.
“Your ballot box legitimacy was finished with the (coffin) boxes of our martyrs!” Walls of the Presidential Palace, Heliopolis, July, 2013.
It is late in the afternoon. Mahmoud drops us off at my friends’ house. The plan is that we gather at Nashwa and Hisham’s place in the Nasr City suburb of Cairo and then go from there to the presidential palace in Heliopolis. Nashwa and Hisham are both tour guides and this past year has been especially hard for them because of the damage done to the tourism industry. They have never been out to protest before; today they are out to “reclaim their country.” As we drive in their car to Heliopolis, we pass marchers heading to the palace; people stop their cars on flyover bridges to take pictures of the marchers passing below. Rallies emanating from mosques and other gathering places in the city converge on the presidential palace and Tahrir Square. I march among the sea of protesters that floods the streets towards the presidential palace.
Tents are set up next to the Heliopolis Sporting Club opposite the entrance to the palace. Morsy is not inside; he has been staying with his family at the Republican Guards’ headquarters for a few days now. I meet so many of my old friends, neighbors, and relatives. I even see my brother, who in the past was reluctant to participate in any protest activity. We all carry red cards and signs saying “Go Out!” We try to get closer to the area where we think there is a stage set up, but we cannot pass through the crowds.
So we sit on the curb and look for news on our phones about the protests in different parts of the country.
The masses that come out to protest are larger than anyone had anticipated. Egyptians of all ages and all classes are taking to the streets in cities, villages, and rural areas. Images of women and elderly men who move their couches out of their living rooms and into the streets circulate on social media. The so-called “hezb el kanaba” (“the couch party”), people who are not politically active and never participate in protests, literally moved their couches into the streets today.
It is an overwhelming feeling being part of this massive movement of people. Some are breaking down and crying, others look like they are more seasoned and accustomed to being in such large protests. However the majority of the people I know who are out today have never been in demonstrations before; we are all determined to stay put until Morsy and his Brotherhood are out. We do not want Egypt to become another Syria. And we certainly do not want our revolution to become another Iranian revolution; this is why the strongest chant on the streets now is “Down with the rule of el murshed!” (“the Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood”). We all feel empowered by our numbers and our diversity but remain worried about how all of this will conclude. Will he leave? Will the army side with us? Will the Brotherhood and their Islamist allies attack our protests? We spend the night on the streets debating what will happen next. The police are very friendly and so are the Republican Guard officers and army personnel who are deployed around the palace. People chat with the soldiers and an army chief speaks to us about the importance of keeping the demonstrations peaceful.
As military helicopters fly over us in the area surrounding the presidential palace, we cheer and wave Egyptian flags, some protesters point laser lights at the army helicopters. In 2011, protesters were shouting slogans such as: “the people and the army are one hand,” essentially calling on the army to intervene on their side, not on Mubarak’s side. The same slogan comes back in 2013. Most of my friends trust the army and seem to believe that their intervention is now inevitable. I remain skeptical however. The experience of SCAF rule after they overthrew Mubarak in January 2011 has been disappointing to say the least. They handed Egypt over to the Islamists through a flawed transitional process and in return the military received from the Islamists all the guarantees they needed to remain powerful. Perhaps if we stay on the streets long enough, if the country comes to a complete stop, the army will have to intervene, just like what happened with Mubarak. One of my friends reminds me: “We were able to topple Mubarak in 18 days. Morsy will not last three days!” He is probably right. Mubarak had the support of all state institutions but the resolve of people on the streets forced the army to intervene and remove him. Morsy now faces the masses, the general public, not just political factions or religious groups. All state institutions now oppose him. How does he expect to continue to rule?
Protesters carry anti-Brotherhood signs with images indicating the popular term for mocking Brotherhood members as khirfan (“sheep”).
“Wake up Morsy! Today is your last day!” Downtown area, July 1, 2013.
Protesters near Tahrir carry a list of Morsy’s failures during his year in office. “Wouldn’t you rebel!” appears in red across. June 30 2013.
Protesters near Tahrir Square carry sheep and a spare tire with the sign “Morsy you spare tire, we will put you back in jail!” Morsy had run in the presidential election as a “reserve” for the Muslim Brotherhood’s main candidate Khayrat al-Shater. He was dubbed the “spare tire” candidate during the elections.
July 1, 2013
At home in the morning, I watch footage taken from army helicopters of yesterday’s protests all over Egypt. They were probably the biggest the country has ever seen. Hundred of thousands went to the presidential palace in Heliopolis. Tahrir was full of Egyptians reacting in panic and outrage to what they saw happening to their country over the past year.
In the afternoon, I go back to the presidential palace. We stay in the long queue of cars waiting to pass the army checkpoint now set up at the entrance to Heliopolis on the Suez Road. People wave Egyptian flags as they pass the army checkpoint. More tents are now set up along El Marghany Street in front of the palace’s main entrance. Signs that show support for the army are everywhere. Protesters carry images of Minister of Defense Abd El Fattah El Sisi. The atmosphere is filled with strong nationalist sentiments and nostalgia for the times of former presidents Nasser and Sadat who both came from the military. Everyone knows that only a military intervention could defeat Morsy and his Brotherhood. A campaign gathering signatures authorizing the army to seize power started earlier in 2013. Many people had documented/notarized legal proxies for El Sisi to assume leadership of the country. When law and order are absent, many are saying, it is the army’s national duty to intervene and stabilize the country.
July 2, 2013
Headline of the state sponsored El Ahram newspaper reads: “Today: departure or discharge!”
Mahmoud drives us from El Tagamo‘ to Heliopolis again in the afternoon. We wait in the long lines of cars to pass the army checkpoint just like we did yesterday. Mahmoud drops us off near El Baron Palace and we walk from there to the presidential palace. As we wander around the palace we see Nashwa again and other old friends. Hisham is in Tahrir tonight. There is a big gathering of Coptic Christians in the El Kurba area behind the palace where they had set up a stage with microphones on the back of a truck. The mood is festive. We stop and sing the national anthem and patriotic songs with the crowd.
The Brotherhood gathered thousands of their supporters to demonstrate in support of Morsy a few days before the 30th. They set up camp with a massive sit-in at Rabaa (a mosque at the intersection of two major roads in Nasr City) not too far from the presidential palace. My brother calls me to say that there is news: Brotherhood leaders called on their supporters from the Rabaa podium to march towards the opposition protests in Heliopolis. It is dangerous. The possibility of clashes between the competing protests is quite strong. My friends take me to the entrance of the mukhabarat (“military intelligence”) headquarters where we think it would be safe to wait for my brother and his friends to ride with them back home.
Morsy spoke to the nation one last time today. In his 50-minute speech, he mentioned the word “shar‘iya” (“legitimacy”) more than 60 times. He warned us of violence and blood.
We were on the brink of civil war.
July 3, 2013
I stay home, waiting for the army’s statement on television. The army gave a 48-hour ultimatum to “all parties” to find a political solution for the crisis, and it expires today.
Finally, it is over: El Sisi gives a brief statement announcing a road map for Egypt’s second transition process towards democracy. El Sisi does not mention Morsy, but he has obviously been removed. Prominent opposition leader Muhammad El Baradei speaks shortly after al-Sisi saying that he hopes this road map will be a starting point for a new beginning for the January 25 revolution. The Grand Imam of El Azhar (Egypt’s leading Islamic religious institution), the Coptic Patriarch, a representative of the ultraconservative Islamist Nour party and the Tamarod youth also speak to the nation with El Sisi and El Baradei on national television. The military does not act alone today.
El Sisi does not rule Egypt now. Adly Mansour, chief justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, will be sworn in as interim president tomorrow. We will soon start the process of rewriting the Islamist exclusionary constitution and the Brotherhood are invited to participate in the new political roadmap. The angry millions on the streets are now rejoicing and partying. I am relieved that Morsy and his Brotherhood are now part of our past, just like Mubarak. The nightmare is over. But I decide not to join the jubilations in the streets. We have been through a similar electrifying moment in February 2011 when the army announced the ouster of Mubarak but we did not have an orderly transition to democratic and civilian rule afterwards. I know it will be another struggle as we navigate this second transition towards democracy and find it hard to imagine how we can do this without blood being shed.
July 4, 2013
In the morning, I go up the stairs to the rooftop of the house with my mother and children. We wave Egyptian flags and cheer as army helicopters fly over us. The cover page of the revolutionary El Tahrir newspaper reads in English: “It’s a Revolution … Not a Coup, Mr. Obama.”
“It’s a revolution.. Not a coup, Mr. Obama! The people win! The removal of Morsy! Egyptian Supreme Court Chief Justice Adly Mansour is appointed interim president! The constitution is suspended. Preparations for early presidential elections! Long Live Egypt!” Cover page of al-Tahrir newspaper, July 4th, 2013.
July 19, 2013
It is Ramadan. People move on with their lives after Morsy’s departure. Except for the Brotherhood’s sit-ins and marches that paralyze traffic, life is almost back to normal in the city. The general public is largely impassive while pro-Morsy protesters continue to go out in rallies at night demanding his return. Sporadic violent clashes erupt between locals not sympathetic with the marches and Brotherhood supporters in various neighborhoods. At Nasr City, where the Rabaa sit-in continues for weeks, area residents, many of whom are military families, are becoming increasingly resentful of the sit-in. They are imprisoned in their homes, their littered streets remain blocked with thousands of protesters camped outside their apartment buildings.
I drive home to El Tagamo‘ after a family iftar gathering in Heliopolis. It is late at night and the city is crammed with cars as usual during Ramadan nights. But the roads are completely blocked. It is another one of those Brotherhood marches coming from the Rabaa sit-in. They are going to the airport area through the Salah Salem road and I can’t avoid the traffic jam. Their numbers are probably in the hundreds; maybe there is a couple of thousands of them, but they deliberately move slowly to interrupt traffic for the longest time possible. I hide the Egyptian flags in my car and sit with the doors and windows closed. It takes me two hours to circumvent the road blocked with the Brotherhood march. Their demands have nothing to do with democracy; this is a struggle for power. We now have a clear roadmap with a constitutional referendum, parliamentary and presidential elections. They do not want to join the democratic process and insist on reinstating Morsy through violence. People are tired and want to see peace, security, and stability. I wonder how they expect us to sympathize with their demands.
July 24, 2013
I listen on my car’s radio as El Sisi calls for nationwide rallies to give the army a mandate to confront “terrorism and violence.” It is a strange request it seems to me. Do we need to march to tell the army to do its job? Many are saying this popular mandate will be a cover for the army’s crackdown on the Islamists. I am not sure why El Sisi made that unusual demand but it is obvious that he is under pressure and needs to show the world the popular support that he has.
July 26, 2013
Thousands decide to respond to El Sisi’s call and show support for the military by having communal iftars in the squares. Egyptian Christian churches announce July 26 a day of fasting and many Copts join Muslims on the streets for the iftar meal. Aly, my brother, makes plans with his friends to bring food and have iftar at the rally in Heliopolis. I decide to go there later that night.
The carnival atmosphere is visible throughout the city. Banners hung across the road on the way to the palace reading: “Egypt is free, Morsy is out!” People mount loudspeakers on trucks and drive around playing that annoying song “tislam al-ayadi” (“Bless the Hands”). This is the long, repetitive pro-army song that gained massive popularity after the military removed Morsy from power. It plays a million times a day on the radio, many use it as a ringtone on their mobile phones, and it is especially popular in wedding ceremonies in heavily populated neighborhoods. Lately, this song has become emblematic of the increasing social hostility towards the Brotherhood, triggering fights in schools, on public transportation, and in different work places.
“Down with the Terrorist group!” Heliopolis, July 26th, 2013.
Poster with image of Minister of Defense Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi: “The people and the army are one hand!” and posters of Tamarod “6/30 Get down! Egyptians are not cowards!” and “June 30: Will you go out or give it up?” June 30th is crossed and replaced with July 26th on a car in Heliopolis, July 26th, 2013.
Many supporters of the ousted Islamist president now feel disenfranchised and alienated. They are outraged at the lack of public sympathy for their demands. Their marches and rallies are either ignored or attacked by the general public. The Brotherhood’s leadership refuses to admit political defeat, they refuse to come to terms with the new reality and join the new political process. They do not realize that they lost public support and insist on the miserable discourse: Reinstate the “legitimate president” and his authoritarian constitution or face the continued protests demanding their return to power and disrupting the lives of millions of Egyptians.
August 14, 2013
It is 8:30 in the morning. We wake up to the news that security forces finally move in to disperse the Brotherhood’s sit-ins at Nahda and Rabaa. We are now staying in our old apartment where we do not have a television with satellite dish and no internet. I find out the news through the limited access I get through my phone. By noon it becomes clear that the day is not going to end peacefully. The Ministry of Interior has been talking for weeks now about a gradual dispersal of the sit-ins, but the widespread anti-Brotherhood sentiment among the general public is giving the state the legitimacy to crack down on the pro-Morsy protesters. Brotherhood leaders ran for their lives and left their supporters at the sit-ins when the violent confrontations with security forces began. Hundreds will die today. Images rush to my mind as I hear news about the carnage at Rabaa, images from 2011 when the Cabinet sit-in was violently dispersed, images of the dead bodies of protesters over a pile of garbage.
August 17, 2013
The present cycle of violence is reaching its peak. Attacks on the military intensify in the Sinai. Participants in the pro-Morsy rallies repeatedly fire gunshots in heavily occupied neighborhoods, killing and wounding many. They torch churches, attack police stations, kill police officers and mutilate their bodies. Except for the terrorist attacks carried out by Islamist groups against the government in the 1990s, we never experienced this level of violence in Egypt. Everyone I talk to, excluding obviously the Morsy supporters and sympathizers, is outraged.
August 19, 2013
I drive by the army checkpoint going into Heliopolis from the Suez Road. The lines of cars are especially long today because an army tank is now blocking the road. People wait patiently in their cars as the military police looks for possible suspects. Islamist militants loyal to Morsy killed 25 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai this morning. They were conscripts going home after finishing their services. They were taken out of the bus and executed. We wave the two-fingered “V for Victory” sign at the soldiers as we drive through the checkpoint. They wave back at us.
We do not have competing protests now, no pro- and anti- Morsy clashes. We have armed groups fighting men in uniform, army and police. It is the state’s right and obligation to defend the security of its citizens against the violence of the Morsy loyalists and Brotherhood supporters. The Brotherhood lost all legitimacy when they used violence and engaged in acts of terror, either directly or through their Islamist allies. It seems as if the Brotherhood’s only way to return to power now is going to be through pushing Egypt towards civil war.
August 24, 2013
The day is too short to get everything done before we travel back to California. I stop by the Diwan Bookstore in Heliopolis to pick up more books. Outside the bookstore, black spray paint on the wall says: “Morsy is coming back!”
“Morsy is coming back!” outside the Diwan bookstore in Heliopolis, August, 2013.
After the ouster of Morsy, Brotherhood supporters inscribed the city with angry anti-army slogans such as “CC is a murderer,” “Sisi is a traitor,” or slogans such as “Morsy is coming back” that assert their determination that Morsy will return as legitimate president and establish the long awaited Islamic state.
The visual messages sent by the Brotherhood during the Rabaa sit-in were primarily addressed at the West. Huge “Pro-democracy” and “Anti-coup” banners appeared at the back of the Rabaa stage. Protesters at the sit-in carried signs with references to democracy written in English such as “Where is my vote!” The principal visual symbol historically associated with the Brotherhood had been the two swords and the Quran that appear on their green flag, a sign seen by many as indicating militancy. Brotherhood supporters now march carrying yellow posters with an image of a black hand holding up four fingers. This sign now identifies the victimhood and bloodshed at their protest camp in Rabaa. Rabaa is the name of a medieval Sufi saint, which in Arabic means “fourth,” hence the four fingers. The sign was inspired by the hand gesture that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan had made to show solidarity with the Brotherhood. The yellow background had been used before for the revolutionary signs of the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” group. This shift in visual forms adopted by the Brotherhood from the two swords with the Quran to the four-fingered hand marks changes in the image with which the Brotherhood now identifies itself. They now portray themselves as the revolutionary martyr.
I return home a little before 7:00 p.m. to find out that the government has announced that the number of curfew hours will be reduced. It will now start at 9:00 p.m. instead of 7:00. It’s been hard keeping the children inside since the curfew was imposed on the 14th. Many restaurants in residential areas remain open after curfew hours, so people can still go out to the neighborhood café next to their apartment buildings. But this is not the case in the suburbs where most stores and restaurants have to close a little before 6:00 p.m. to give their employees enough time to go home. By 6:30 in the evening, the streets are deserted. As soon as we hear the announcement on TV we jump into the car and go out for ice cream.
A fruit stand with a poster of al-Sisi in the Heliopolis market area of Midan al-Gami‘, August, 2013.
August 29, 2013
Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam
Our flight back to Los Angeles that was scheduled to leave after midnight has been canceled and rebooked because of the curfew imposed in Cairo. We now have to spend a night in Amsterdam instead of the four-hour layover we had planned in our original booking. At Schiphol Airport, we meet a group of Copts traveling to the US. They do not speak any English and have never been abroad before. I volunteer to translate the questions asked by immigration officials. They decided to leave Egypt after receiving threats.
I did not vote for Morsy. I boycotted the run-off election between him and his opponent Ahmad Shafiq, who was Mubarak’s last prime minister and loyal student. Many supporters of the revolution, including myself, believed that neither candidate represented the principles of the revolution. Morsy obtained a slim victory after receiving less than 52 percent of the votes. (He received 13 million out of 22 million votes cast — population more than 85 million). Egyptians were deeply divided during that election. Many had reluctantly voted for Morsy in the second round out of fear of the return of the Mubarak regime. But no one questioned his legitimacy. Most of us were willing to give him a chance.
During his election campaign he pledged, in a televised interview, to leave office if he failed to respect the law and if millions rallied against him. “I want the people to rebel against me if I do not respect the constitution and the law,” he said just days before the election. Morsy had also promised the revolutionary forces — in what became known as the “Fairmont agreement” — to fulfill the immediate demands of the revolutions once he was elected. He pledged to build a popular alliance and to rebalance the constituent assembly that had been dominated by his Islamist supporters. Once he came to office, he only seemed to listen to the leaders in his Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau.
Today, Egypt remains sharply divided. Clashes between Morsy’s supporters and local residents have now become customary. Significant segments of the population are now opposed to the Islamists and applaud the state security forces’ crackdown on the Brotherhood and their supporters at Rabaa and afterwards. They maintain that Egypt is now fighting a “war on terror” and refuse to acknowledge the rage among the pro-Morsy masses after the dispersal of the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins. The Islamists, on the other hand, insist that they are fighting a military coup and dismiss the millions who are now against them as “coup(ers).” Reconciliation with the Brotherhood is, as Ashraf El Sherif has recently shown, highly unlikely. The political polarization, intolerance and deep social divisions will probably continue at least until a new political reality is created through fresh elections.
The revolution is not, as Morsy repeatedly told us, over. It is an ongoing process that will continue until the demands are met: Bread, freedom, human dignity and social justice.
Aliaa El Sandouby was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. She left Egypt in 2001 to pursue a doctorate in Islamic Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has been on the faculty at Helwan University in Cairo since 2008.