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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.