When Egypt's Defense Minister, General Abdelfattah El-Sisi, deposed President Muhammad Morsi in a military coup depicted as a popular revolt, on July 3, coup leaders were confident that Morsi and his supporters, led by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), would quickly capitulate and recognize the new reality.
Within hours of the coup, hundreds of MB and other anti-coup leaders and popular public figures were rounded up, as most TV and satellite channels deemed to be anti-coup or simply critical of the army's brazen intervention, were swiftly banned and closed down. At the time, Sisi claimed that he had intervened in order to prevent an impending civil war, and he promised security, stability, and prosperity. But it seems that the generals and their enablers have badly miscalculated. Four months into the bloody coup, Egypt's deep and unprecedented crisis keeps growing.
It's a fact that millions of Egyptians initially supported the military intervention in order to overthrow Morsi and the MB and genuinely detested the group or were exasperated with the deteriorating security and economic conditions in the country. However, as I explained in a previous article, much of the opposition against Morsi was co-opted by the remnants of the old Mubarak regime and the deep state (the complex web that ruled Egypt for six decades, which comprised of various corrupt but powerful elements within the military, intelligence services, security apparatus, oligarchs, media, judiciary, and state bureaucracy).
Yet, contrary to the image Morsi tried to cultivate during his one-year rule, he was really never able to scratch the surface of, let alone dismantle or control, these powerful and entrenched state institutions, which in reality never recognized his authority. Since then, more evidence has emerged to buttress this fact, including footage of a high-ranking police officer admitting before his comrades that the police and army had been planning to overthrow Morsi weeks before the coup. In another audio post a former leader of Tamarrud -- the youth movement that suddenly burst into the political scene calling for popular demonstrations and overthrow of Morsi on June 30 -- regretted his involvement and exposed the surreptitious relationship between his group and pro-Mubarak state security officers.
Since then, millions of other Egyptians have taken to the streets in major demonstrations throughout Egypt on a daily basis, in defiance of the state of emergency imposed by the coup government. The demonstrations call for the restoration of the country's nascent democracy while demanding the return of the first democratically-elected civilian president, the reinstatement of the parliament banned by the coup, and the restoration of the suspended constitution that was ratified two to one just six months earlier.
The Coup Fails to Subdue its Opponents
But the scheme enacted by Gen. Sisi and his cohorts in order to legitimize their coup and take control of the country hinged on their ability to subdue the opposition and the population, and it rested on three main assumptions. First, Sisi believed that Morsi would quickly follow in the footsteps of Mubarak and resign voluntarily or under pressure. Morsi was essentially kidnapped by the army, kept in isolation, and detained in a hidden location for weeks in an attempt to pressure him to accept the new reality and give up his claim to the presidency.
Nevertheless, Morsi stubbornly rejected all such attempts, insisting that he was the legitimately-elected president and demanding to be restored to his position. Even when the military-backed government resorted to outside mediators, such as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, to convince Morsi and his colleagues that it was over, he still insisted on his legitimacy and refused to step down.
The second tactic was to crack down on the senior leadership of the MB in order to force them to recognize the new regime and accept the new power structure and its political roadmap for the country. In this phase, the military used carrots and sticks, promising inclusion and an undetermined future political role for the group, while it arrested, banished and prosecuted them. But their overtures were once again rejected as the MB negotiators insisted on the restoration of the constitution, the president, and parliament, and proclaimed that these democratic institutions were the main achievements of the 2011 popular uprising.
But before the negotiations for an acceptable resolution between the antagonistic parties were further explored, the hardliners within the coup government, led by anti-Islamist high ranking officers from the old state security apparatus and military intelligence, pushed for a military solution. Thus, the tactic of adopting an iron-fist policy by stamping out the MB from all aspects of society prevailed, prompting the resignation of or condemnation by several public figures that initially either encouraged the coup such as Mohammad ElBaradei or accepted it such as AbdelMoneim Abulfutooh.
In the process, not only did all institutions of power within the state join in such as the military, intelligence services, the state security apparatus, government-controlled media, the entire judicial system including the police, prosecutors, and the judiciary, but also non-government media as well as many so-called liberal and secular groups. However, anyone who would sing outside the chorus was unwelcome and considered an outcast. Uncharacteristically for Egypt, a new spirit of chauvinism, fascism, and ugly nationalism engulfed the country. Suddenly all the freedoms Egyptians had gained and enjoyed for two years had become vestiges of the past.
Empowered by the coup and a revengeful spirit, the state security apparatus aided by the army swiftly then launched the largest crackdown against any social movement or political party in the history of the region. It culminated in the arrest of not only the senior leadership of the MB and other Islamist organizations such as Al-Wasat Party, but also in the capture of more than 2,000 mid-level leaders that included most of the second and third tiers of the groups on dubious charges such as incitement or simply for just opposing the coup. The list of the detainees has even included well over one hundred university professors, administrators, and deans, as well as dozens of officers of professional syndicates. Shortly thereafter, the judiciary banned the MB, and closed its charities. The government then seized its assets, which included hundreds of properties and bank accounts, even before a final judicial order was issued.
Yet despite the brutal onslaught and the propaganda machine that controlled the airwaves and print media in depicting the group and other Islamist parties as terrorists and outlaws, the MB and their supporters still rejected any deal with the military that recognized the coup, and defiantly pledged to restore Morsi and the constitution through peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience. For six weeks, hundreds of thousands were camped in two main squares in Cairo and other provinces pledging to continue their peaceful protests until their goals are realized.
Shock and Awe: Egyptian Style
Perhaps the most significant outcome of the 2011 uprising was the end of the state of fear of the dreaded security state apparatus that ruled the country by terror and paralyzed most Egyptians for almost six decades. Since early 2011, Egyptians have felt genuinely liberated, empowered, and exercised true freedoms that were denied them for generations. Thus, the third tactic by the coup was the attempt to re-establish control of the society by instilling back that fear in the hearts and souls of the Egyptians before they are accustomed to real freedoms and democratic institutions that would eventually hold powerful interests accountable to the people.
Towards that goal, the army and security forces used brutal tactics that included as many as six shocking massacres in less than eight weeks, culminating in Raba'a Square on August 14. Such ruthlessness resulted in the deaths of as many as 5,000 innocent victims, including hundreds of women, children, and elderly people. In addition, more than 20,000 people were wounded and as many as 12,000 were detained under emergency laws. Meanwhile, many others were severely beaten, tortured, and humiliated. Hundreds of videos have been circulating that clearly demonstrate that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed by Egypt's security forces and army.