As the situation continues to deteriorate in Syria, with nearly 100,000 dead, a second civil war is rapidly developing in the Middle East, another casualty of the so-called “Arab Spring”. The growing chaos in Egypt’s cities is rapidly leading Egypt’s population into a civil war between pro-Islamist and opposition groups, each numbering in the millions, who are taking to the streets in displays of growing hostility and violence.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which has always assured the world that its goals are tied to peacefully achieved change, are now showing their true colors: Shariah at any price. And the price will be steep, paid in the blood of Egyptians. In the last few days alone, scores of people have died and hundreds have been wounded from gunfire and other acts of violence on both sides.
Economics Trumps Religious Concerns Interestingly, the source of the unrest that caused the Morsi government to fall is not religious as much as it is economic. Since Morsi assumed the Presidency in a questionable “free and fair” election process, Egyptians have faced growing food shortages, and half of Egypt’s 84 million people subsist on a mere $2 a day. GDP growth as decreased by 3%, and the unemployment rate now sits at 13.2% or over 11 million people (with many more severely under-employed).
Concurrently, Egypt’s currency has devalued rapidly since the 2011 revolution, and the Egyptian economy overall has suffered from a sharp drop in foreign investment and income from its largest economic sector, tourism. All of these factors have led to a sharp rise in consumer prices, which, according to the the Consumer Price Index have risen by 25 points since 2011.
For the average Egyptian, the most serious problem facing them day to day is the skyrocketing cost of food and fuel. Nearly 70% of its food is imported, as is a large part of its fuel, but the reserve for hard currency, which is used to pay for these essential imports has fallen to roughly $13.5 billion from $36 billion two years ago. This falls below the red line marking the critical level needed to sustain imports for three months.
The rising prices for such staples as bread most greatly affect the poor, who comprise nearly 40% of the Egyptian population. By burdening such a large portion of Egyptian population who already face poor economic conditions caused by bad government policy, dissatisfaction was only a matter of time. In the current anti-Morsi demonstrations, religion is not the main issue, and the protestors are now coming from both the secular and the religious (at left, religious women demonstrate against Morsi and hold signs of General al Sissi, who announced the fall of the Morsi government.)
The Outcome The breaking point came last Sunday, when a demonstration of millions of Egyptians massed in cities throughout Egypt to express their dissatisfaction and to demand a change in their government. In Cairo, millions gathered in Tahrir Square and in the streets leading to it. The military listened and announced that Morsi had been forced to step down, that his government had been shut down, and that the constitution, which had been written by his government and later amended by Morsi himself, had been suspended.
The Muslim Brotherhood was taken by surprise. Initial shock changed to outrage and a call for revenge. Following Friday prayers, millions of Morsi supporters poured into the streets and demanded the reinstatement of the Morsi government, vowing to die to make this happen. On Sunday, the Muslim Brotherhood called for an intifada in Egypt to bring down the interim government and return to
The confrontation between pro-Morsi (Muslim Brotherhood) Egyptians and the opposition who brought down the government is growing fierce and violent. This morning, at least 51 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed by the Egyptian Military and as many as 500 were reported wounded by Army gunfire. Accounts differ severely as to what triggered the confrontation. Demonstrators said they were finishing morning prayers when they were attacked, while the military reported that they first came under attack when the demonstrators began attacking the headquarters of the Egyptian Republican Guard in Nasr City, where they had gathered.
What Next? The outcome of the developing violence is most likely to be more violence and a shifting of popular support as a result. The Muslim Brotherhood has a strong hold on its base and is well known for its organizational abilities. Whether it can marshal the support of sufficient masses, as it did in January 2011, to overwhelm the opposition remains to be seen. Morsi’s failure to improve the lot of the average Egyptian during his presidency hurt the cause for a religiously driven government immeasurably, because the Egyptian people have watched their personal economic situations go from bad to worse under his administration and felt even more desperation than they saw in 2011.
A new revolution is now developing, fueled by Egyptians who are no longer willing to tolerate the worsening economic conditions and who want dramatic change from the Morsi government. At the same time, a civil war is being planned by the Muslim Brotherhood, whose followers are ready to die rather than submit to a non-Islamist government. They are calling for a resinstatement of Morsi or an intifada against the ‘secular’ government (any government that does not comply with and impose sharia law). The country has never been more polarized. The fighting is becoming increasingly savage and the future does not look promising for anything approaching a peaceful solution.
As the situation unfolds, much will depend on how much control the Army, who say their patience is running out, can maintain over the growing demonstrations, and how effective the Muslim Brotherhood, now showing their true colors, will be in organizing its base. The stakes are high and the outcome is far from certain.
———— Ilana Freedman, Edito