Politics

Arab Spring comes to Egypt again (but this time the media doesn’t care)

Arab Spring comes to Egypt again (but this time the media doesn't care)

Did you know the largest demonstration in the history of Egypt, and possibly of the human race, is currently under way against the Obama-supported Muslim Brotherhood regime?  A lot of American media outlets have been frantically working to avoid the story, absurdly downplaying the size of the crowds – reliable estimates have run into the millions, which is much larger than the Tahrir Square protests that ousted previous dictator Hosni Mubarak, but certain news outlets have tried downsizing the crowds to “thousands” or “hundreds of thousands” in their reports.  And those reports aren’t landing on the front pages, the way those anti-Mubarak protests gained saturation coverage.  The contrast between the media’s view of the previous demonstration and these far larger protests is stunning.

Even more stunning is the fact that President Barack Obama just happens to be on the same continent while the streets of Cairo boil over, and the protesters have not forgotten his support for the Morsi regime:

egypt_obama_banner

Other banners on display in Tahrir Square read, “Wake up, America.  Obama backs up a fascist regime in Egypt” and “America supports the killers of the Egyptian people.”  Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Arab protest without a few digs at the Zionist puppet masters; the BBC spotted “one flag portraying President Morsi inside a Star of David.”  And there’s been a report of gang rape perpetrated against a Dutch journalist by men who claimed to be “revolutionists.”

You’d think this would all be of great interest to the U.S. media, wouldn’t you?  Wasn’t Egypt advertised as a breathtaking triumph of Obama foreign policy?

The BBC says at least five people have been killed so far, including one death at the Cairo offices of the Muslim Brotherhood, which received a hail of “stones and petrol bombs” from demonstrators.  Other reports put the death toll at eight from the attack on the Brotherhood headquarters alone.

Things might be about to get a lot uglier, and Egypt’s new dictator might go where his predecessor did not… his crackdown calculations influenced by knowing that intense media interest helped prevent Mubarak from unleashing the level of violence that might have kept him in power.  (Having watched the previous drama in Tahrir Square unfold, I think there were a few moments when Mubarak was very sorely tempted.)  And even if Morsi doesn’t order an official crackdown, his Muslim Brotherhood supporters appear ready to work freelance on his behalf.

The AFP news service reports ominous signals from the protesters:

Egypt’s opposition Monday gave Islamist Mohamed Morsy a day to quit or face civil disobedience after deadly protests demanded the country’s first democratically elected president step down after just a year in office.

“We give Mohamed Morsy until 5:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Tuesday July 2 to leave power, allowing state institutions to prepare for early presidential elections,” the Tamarod movement said in a statement on its website.

Otherwise, “Tuesday, 5:00 pm will be the beginning of a complete civil disobedience campaign.”

Tamarod — Arabic for Rebellion — is a grassroots campaign which says it collected more than 22 million signatures declaring a lack of confidence in Morsy.

It was behind Sunday’s protests that saw millions of people take to the streets demanding his departure on the first anniversary of his inauguration as president.

As Morsy stood firm and insisted the only way out of the political crisis was dialogue, calls for army intervention increased.

Tamarod’s statement urged state institutions to stand side by side with the protesters.

It urged “the army, the police and the judiciary to clearly side with the popular will as represented by the crowds”.

Opposition leader Hamdeen Sabbahi called for military intervention if Morsy refused to quit.

“The armed forces must act, because they have always been on the side of the people” which “has expressed its will”, said Sabbahi, who came third in the 2012 presidential election.

… while Reuters picks up ominous signals from President Mohammed Morsi in response:

President Mohamed Mursi, in an address to the nation, said on Wednesday that the polarized state of Egypt’s politics was threatening democracy and could plunge the nation into chaos.

He acknowledged he had made errors, but also blamed unspecified “enemies of Egypt” for sabotage the democratic system born in the uprising of 2011 and under which the Islamist Mursi was elected a year ago.

“Political polarization and conflict has reached a stage that threatens our nascent democratic experience and threatens to put the whole nation in a state of paralysis and chaos,” he told an audience of officials and Islamist supporters in a speech that was broadcast live on television.

“The enemies of Egypt have not spared effort in trying to sabotage the democratic experience,” he added.

There have been demonstrations of support for Morsi as well, although the pro-government demonstrators appear vastly outnumbered.  Several of Morsi’s cabinet ministers have resigned in sympathy with the protesters.  There have been calls for sit-ins and a general strike.  The Associated Press portrays the protesters as feeling pretty good about their chances of provoking regime change, although they don’t seem clear about who would take Morsi’s place:

The mood was largely festive as protesters at giant anti-Morsi rallies in Tahrir and outside the Ittihadiya palace spilled into side streets and across boulevards, waving flags, blowing whistles and chanting.

Fireworks went off overhead. Men and women, some with small children on their shoulders, beat drums, danced and sang, “By hook or by crook, we will bring Morsi down.” Residents in nearby homes showered water on marchers below — some carrying tents in preparation to camp outside the palace — to cool them in the summer heat, and blew whistles and waved flags in support.

“Mubarak took only 18 days although he had behind him the security, intelligence and a large sector of Egyptians,” said Amr Tawfeeq, an oil company employee marching toward Ittihadiya with a Christian friend. Morsi “won’t take long. We want him out and we are ready to pay the price.”

The BBC took a look at the cause of this unrest last week, concluding that Morsi hasn’t been a very good administrator, and the more secular-liberal elements of the coalition that brought down Mubarak are not happy about the concentration of power in the hands of Islamists:

Inheriting a corruption-riddled and economically battered country from a long-time president, Mohammed Morsi promised when he was inaugurated a year ago to give Egypt a face-lift in just 100 days.

One year on, he faces widespread discontent as much of the country is seething with anger and frustration over the perceived failure of the president to tackle any of the country’s pressing economic and social woes.

And from the beginning of his four-year term in office, Mr Morsi has fallen out with key institutions, chiefly the judiciary, police, media and more recently artists.

[...] “This revolution is not over yet,” Mohamed ElBaradei, a former top UN diplomat and one of the best known faces of the opposition, told the leading Arab daily Al-Hayat.

The opposition accuses the president and his group, the Muslim Brotherhood, of trying to Islamise the state and of giving the Islamists a monopoly over key public institutions.

Disgruntled young activists have embarrassed the president by launching, in April, a grass-roots campaign to call for early elections.

The campaign is called Tamarod, or “Rebel”, and backed by many leading opposition parties and public figures including Mr ElBaradei.

Organisers claim to have collected 15 million signatures on petitions that hold signs reading “Leave”.

“It is a vote of no confidence of the Muslim Brotherhood president,” Tamarod spokesman Mahmoud Badr told BBC Arabic television in a recent interview.

On Monday morning, the Egyptian military issued a statement calling for a swift, peaceful, negotiated end to the crisis, including a call for the Morsi regime to “meet the demands of the people.”  And if such a solution is not found quickly, the army said it “may have to offer a roadmap after 48 hours.”  The current government probably doesn’t want to find out where that “roadmap” would lead.

Update: I’m seeing reports that a grand total of ten ministers have now resigned from the Morsi government.

Update: The big protests aren’t just confined to the streets of Cairo.  This image comes from Alexandria:

alexandria_protest

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