Will Obama Stand Up with or Against the Egyptian People?
In a rare historic moment for humanity, on June 30th 2013, the BBC reported that “the number of anti-Muslim Brotherhood protesters today in Egypt is the largest number in a political event in the history of mankind”. The Egyptian military used helicopters to track the protests across Egypt and put the numbers of protesters between 15-20 million, while other foreign media reported the number to be closer to 30.
Just as with the 2011 revolution, the grass-roots Tamarod (rebellion) movement, lead entirely by youth and not affiliated with any political party, has spread like wildfire through the population. First, it has collected more than 22 million signatures on petitions demanding President Morsy call for early elections after his failure to properly lead the country.
Morsy having dismissed the petitions of the people, the movement then called for protests on June 30th, and the Egyptian people responded in an historic display.
Americans should be ecstatic at the widespread yearning for liberty expressed in the Tamarod protests. And yet the U.S. government appears to the Egyptian public to be on the wrong side of the fence, backing the regime. Just two weeks before the protests Ambassador Patterson delivered a speech in Cairo expressing skepticism about "street action" that could result in violent protests, equating anti-Brotherhood protest with violence. The very next day she had one of her frequent meetings with senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater, who holds no official office, and widely disliked in Egypt for supporting leaders of the terrorist group “Islamic Jihad”. The group had threatened protesters, especially Christians, with violence if they attempt to topple Morsy.
As a result, the U.S. finds itself now disliked by major Egyptians in the country. And Patterson’s picture on protest placards was almost as ubiquitous as Morsy’s.
At the end of the day on June 30th, at least 17 Egyptians have been killed and over 800 wounded as a result of clashes between Morsy’s supporters and the protesters. Making good on threats made prior to the protests by regime supporters in the governorate of Assiut, the first martyr of the Tamarod movement was a Christian young man named “Abanoub Adel” who was shot during the protests.
After taking office a year ago, Morsy formed a government made largely of Muslim Brotherhood members or their supporters, and appointed governors from his Muslim Brotherhood leadership, seeming to turn Egypt into a private state run primarily for the benefit of the Brotherhood. He also formed a constitutional drafting committee made up almost exclusively of Islamists that produced a draft constitution intended to entrench their notion of an Islamic state. Morsy declared himself above the Egyptian courts, grasping dictator’s powers, in order to push the constitutional referendum through. The response from the Obama Administration at this power grab was muted at best.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian people have been subject to the rapid deterioration of the economy and scarcity of basic supplies of goods and services. Having expended almost all of their strategic oil reserves, citizens have to wait on the streets for days to get a tank of gas. At the same time, Morsy has not only revived, but exceeded human rights abuses of the Mubarak era. Morsy has jailed his opposition opponents, silenced journalists, harassed critics and plundered business owners. He has also ignored court orders to dissolve the illegitimate upper-house of parliament.
As they did in 2011, the Egyptian people have once again risen against another tyrant. The saying goes and it is true that “as Egypt goes, so goes the Middle East.” That is why America invested billions of dollars in aid and military weaponry, because as the largest Arab country in the world Egypt is critical to the strategic interests of the United States. What is happening in Egypt directly affects U.S. policy in the region.
Americans must not allow the Obama Administration to support an unjust regime that has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the Egyptian people, and now, the world. The heart of the American tradition is freedom, liberty and justice, but the American people find their government supporting a regime that is antithetical to their values. It’s time for Obama to unmistakably call on Morsy to heed the voice of his people and call for early elections. This is the only move that can repair the damage done by the current failed U.S. foreign policy and begin to undo the damage recently done by U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson.
Michael Meunier is one of the Egyptian opposition leaders and the head of Al Haya Political party in Egypt.