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Egyptian 'Rebel' Group Backs Military

  • Elizabeth Arrott

FILE - An Egyptian activist covers her face with an application for "Tamarod," Arabic for "rebel," a campaign calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and for early presidential elections, during a protest in Tahrir Square, Cairo.

FILE - An Egyptian activist covers her face with an application for "Tamarod," Arabic for "rebel," a campaign calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and for early presidential elections, during a protest in Tahrir Square, Cairo.

The Egyptian grassroots movement that boasts bringing down ex-President Mohamed Morsi is now seeking a spot in government. But even as Tamarod inspires similar movements abroad, the group remains dogged by the question - is it a player or a pawn?

While Egyptian leaders continue their crackdown on Islamist opponents, they are also trying to move forward on a roadmap for political change.

And one of their biggest backers in the overhaul, the Tamarod, or Rebellion, movement is moving along with them.

The public face of outcry against Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, Tamarod says it will compete nationally in new elections for parliament.

Founding member Mohamed Heikal says Tamarod has changed its focus.

He says Tamarod has “shifted from a protest movement to a movement of reconstruction and that there is a lot to rebuild."

The nation is torn apart by the military's crackdown on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and what many Islamists and others see as the subversion of democracy.

But Tamarod spokesman Hisham Goran defends the military's path.

He said, “They are handling it in the right way and we are going on the Road Map in the right way and you have to know that all the political parties and the people are together with the army. We are going to stand against this terrorism now.”

While other groups in Egypt's long-fractured opposition rejected the military's call for a mandate against “terrorism,” Tamarod stood by its side.

Its support raised further questions of how this small group, seemingly quixotic in its quest to topple a president, found in two months the means and organizational skills to rally millions.

Leaders deny any help from security forces in launching their anti-Morsi campaign, and are adamant they never met with officials before Morsi's July 3 ouster.

Spokeswoman Mai Wahba dismisses criticism the group is a pawn of greater forces.

She says Tamarod is not the voice of the army and never will be. She calls the group the “voice of the nation.” She says “the public commands and the army implements.”

Certainly Tamarod's voice is not always unified. Like other opposition parties, it has its internal rifts, with dissent most recently over whom to back for president - military leader General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, or Nasserite politician Hamdeen Sabahi.

But in most cases, Tamarod has proven more nationalist than the new leadership itself. They called for rejecting U.S. aid to Egypt even before Washington made cuts. Wahba has been in the vanguard of anti-Americanism.

She says she sees the U.S. as “big supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood” and thus regards America as “a supporter of terrorism.”

Tamarod also strongly opposed possible U.S. strikes last month against the Syrian government, which the group sees as a defender against Islamism. Leaders called, in vain, for closing the Suez Canal to U.S. warships.

Whatever its origins, Tamarod's anti-Islamist brand appears to be spreading. On November 11, a newly-minted Tamarod movement in the Palestinian Gaza Strip plans to protest against its Islamist rulers, Hamas.
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