News / Middle East

Upheaval in Egypt Sharpens Middle East Divisions

Supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi protest in Cairo, Egypt, July 9, 2013.
Supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi protest in Cairo, Egypt, July 9, 2013.
The ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi as president of Egypt has sharpened political divisions throughout the Arab Spring nations of the Middle East and North Africa. 
 
The division is between those who align with Islamists and argue that Morsi’s overthrow was a military coup, and supporters of more secular parties who believed Morsi was an autocrat and watched in frustration as the clout of political Islam grew steadily since the Arab Spring uprisings began two-and-a-half years ago.
 
Some liberals and secularists, however, worry that the overthrow of Morsi, an elected leader, could backfire and bring about an end to the fledgling democratic experiment in the region’s most populous nation.
 
In Tunisia, where the Arab Spring uprisings started with the ouster of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, liberal protesters celebrated outside the Egyptian Embassy chanting “Today Egypt, Tunisia tomorrow.” Young Tunisian liberals drew inspiration from Egypt and launched their own Tamarod (rebellion) campaign, modeling it on the movement Egyptians used to rally millions of anti-Morsi protesters in the streets of Cairo and other cities last week.
 
Tunisian movement calls on government to resign
 
They called for the resignation of the Tunisian government led by the Islamist Ennahdha party, which had condemned Morsi’s ouster. They also called for the National Constituent Assembly to be dissolved and early presidential elections. The Tunisian movement’s leader, Mohammed Bannour, claims a Tamarod petition there has gathered more than 180,000 signatures in two weeks.

Police fire tear gas to break up a demonstration by the hardline Islamist group, Ansar al-Sharia May 19, in Kairouan, Tunisia.Police fire tear gas to break up a demonstration by the hardline Islamist group, Ansar al-Sharia May 19, in Kairouan, Tunisia.
x
Police fire tear gas to break up a demonstration by the hardline Islamist group, Ansar al-Sharia May 19, in Kairouan, Tunisia.
Police fire tear gas to break up a demonstration by the hardline Islamist group, Ansar al-Sharia May 19, in Kairouan, Tunisia.
This has drawn a stern warning from the Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution (LPR) in Tunisia, a conservative Salafist group that has been accused of using violence to intimidate opponents.
 
“We have yet to organize protests in support of a legitimate power in Tunisia, but we have contacts of people in every governorate,” said the League's chief, Mounir Achour. “We are ready to resort to violence if necessary.”
 
For Achour, Morsi’s ouster was neither legitimate nor a revolution, but simply a coup. “I am really upset by how the Egyptians removed Morsi. That is not fair. He was doing his job perfectly and governing by the rule of law.”
 
In Libya, there are mutterings that it too needs a “second revolution” to fulfill the objectives of the uprising that led to the downfall of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Suspicions are mounting about the intentions of Islamists following the passage of a political exclusion law that forced the resignation of the president of Libya's parliament.
 
Confrontation in Libya

On Sunday, protestors in Tripoli demonstrated against the continued existence of unofficial revolutionary brigades, many of which are influenced by political Islam, and threated to take on the militias at some time in the future.
 
“When we have enough people, we will go on to the headquarters of these militias,” said one of the protest organizers.
 
The protest coincided with the first anniversary of the election of Libya’s parliament, the nation’s first free election in almost half a century. But there was no sense of celebration, just frustration with a parliament that has made little progress because of deep political divisions and a lack of willingness to make compromises, according to Libyan journalist Umar Khan.
 
Fighting has flared in Tripoli and Benghazi in recent weeks, roiling the already unruly regional and tribal politics in the area.  Islamists, concerned about the turn of events in Egypt, are reportedly beefing up their militias even though there is no army to speak of capable of mounting a coup.
 
A setback for democracy?
 
Traditionally, countries across the region have looked to Egypt as a leading example in religion, politics and culture. For Islamists, Egypt is the birthplace of Sunni political Islam, the place where the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928. For them, Morsi's fall was a strategic setback -- not just for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but also for similar groups farther afield.
 
In a statement, al-Jamaa al-Islamiya in Lebanon, a Sunni Islamist party, decried Morsi’s ouster, saying: “Everyone is suffering from what is happening in Egypt, the great Arab country that held a referendum on the constitution, and free elections for the [lower house of] parliament and the Shura Council and the president of the republic.”
 
Some analysts fear Morsi's overthrow may lead the Islamists to draw the wrong lessons and not see fault in the ousted president's overreach, his mismanagement of the economy and his  failure to accommodate political opponents.
 
These analysts worry that Islamists, already distrustful of democracy as a Western import, will turn their back on elections and explore violent ways to win governing power. It was a point made last week by Morsi aide Essam Haddad, who tweeted as even the army intervened, this “message will resonate throughout the Muslim world loud and clear: Democracy is not for Muslims.”
 
That conviction was echoed by al-Qaida's Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
 
“[We] always knew that our rights can only be regained by force and that is why we have chosen the ammunition box instead of the ballot box," the militant group said on the day Morsi fell.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid