News / Middle East

Egypt's Generals Back in Favor After First Flawed Transition

Anti-Morsi protesters carrying posters of army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi chant slogans at a mass rally to support the army, in Cairo's Tahrir Square, July 26, 2013.
Anti-Morsi protesters carrying posters of army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi chant slogans at a mass rally to support the army, in Cairo's Tahrir Square, July 26, 2013.
Reuters
When Egypt's army was last in charge, little more than a year ago, 27-year-old artist Mohamed Haroun painted a picture of the senior general surrounded by money looted from the state.

Now the army is back in control, he plans to sketch the new military chief plucking a drowning country from the sea.

”Tantawi was from the old regime,” said Haroun, referring to Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who ran Egypt from 2011 to 2012 after the overthrow of his former comrade-in-arms, Hosni Mubarak.

In contrast, Haroun said General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who pushed aside President Mohamed Morsi this month, “showed us he is one of us.”

Many of those Egyptians opposed to Morsi say their admiration for the army has never wavered, and that any anger was always directed at the generals in charge.

Army as stabilizing force
 
In the turbulent world of Egyptian politics since Mubarak, a former air force marshal, was toppled, the military is seen as an institution that offers stability.

According to a Zogby poll published in June, the army as an institution scored a 94-percent confidence level. About 60 percent of non-Islamists favored a temporary return to army rule, while almost all Islamists opposed it.

Haroun, like other Egyptian men, served in the army as a conscript, another reason why some view the army's rank and file as part of the national fabric.

While many ordinary Egyptians have clung to the military throughout, many of those who hailed the army's action in deposing Morsi had been at the forefront of calls for Tantawi and his troops to leave power, fueled by the frequent crackdowns by soldiers on protests during that period.

Beneath graffiti against Morsi on walls that surround Tahrir, older slogans of “Down with military rule” are visible.

In the streets around the square where demonstrations have now brought down two leaders, Tantawi's soldiers, armed with batons and shields, had often charged and beaten demonstrators demanding civilian government.

Cheering the army on

In one act whose images went viral on YouTube in December 2011, soldiers dragged a woman along a road, exposed her blue bra and stamped on her, fueling calls for Tantawi and his troops to go.

So some, often speaking in hushed tones, wonder how long Egyptians will cheer the army on this time, even if officers insist Sissi is not seeking power and will stick to a plan that could see elections in six months.

Sissi has appointed an interim president, Supreme Constitutional Court judge Adli Mansour.

”There were people who supported Sissi or didn't want the Brotherhood,” said Hatem al-Dabaa, a 50-year-old owner of an antique shop in Cairo who is opposed to military rule.

”But when they see what the military rule will do, they will change their minds,” said he.
 
Morsi, a member of the once banned Muslim Brotherhood, became Egypt's first democratically elected leader last June when he won an election with 52 percent of the vote.
 
But that was not on 39-year-old Hanan Shaaban's mind when she bought a poster of Sissi, wearing dark glasses and brocaded peaked cap from one of the many vendors in Tahrir Square now selling his picture.

”The person who betrayed the state and betrayed the people was Morsi,” she said, speaking from beneath an Islamic veil that left only her eyes visible.

Sissi, she said, is “a man who is worried about his country and worried about his people,” she added.

Alongside pictures of Sissi, hawkers sell images of Egypt's other military officers-turned-statesman.

Titled “Egypt's great” men, posters show Anwar Sadat, who was assassinated by Islamists in 1981, and Gamal Abdel Nasser, who turfed out the king in 1952 and cracked down on the Brotherhood and others two years later.
 
The vendors’ stalls show that Mubarak remains out of favor and is portrayed behind bars - standing in jail with Morsi in one poster. Until Morsi, all of Egypt's presidents since 1952 had emerged from officer ranks.
 
Facing the consequences

For now, public opposition to Sissi is mostly centered on Rabaa al-Adawiya, a junction on a Cairo thoroughfare where Islamists and others angry at the way Morsi was kicked out of office on July 3 have been staging a sit-in.

”We might have to stand up to the military and have their bullets tearing through our flesh,” said Gehad El-Haddad, spokesman of the Brotherhood, whose father was an adviser to Morsi and, like the ousted president, is held incommunicado.

”But the rest of the Egyptian people will also face the consequences of not standing up to the military,” he said, predicting a slide into dictatorship.

The Brotherhood insists it will stick to non-violent protests. But some worry the polarization in society and the frustration of a more radical Islamist fringe could spur an Islamist insurgency like the one against Mubarak in the 1990s.

”After the last two years in this region, you have to say anything is possible,” said one Western diplomat.

With a low-level civil conflict already being waged by militants in Sinai, Sissi called for rallies on Friday against “violence and terrorism.” In response, the Brotherhood has called for counter demonstrations against the “military coup.”

The street, where the army can still count on broad support for its intervention, has become the battle ground.

”In a sense it is mob rule,” said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center, “and that lends itself to a very dangerous kind of politics.”

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More