Timeline: What’s Happened Since Egypt’s Revolution?
September 17, 2013, 8:59 pm ET
A breakdown of the key events that have shaped Egypt
since the Jan. 25, 2011 protests erupted.
Feb. 11: Mubarak Steps Down
After 18 days of protests that spilled out from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, President Hosni Mubarak hands power to military’s ruling body, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Mubarak’s former prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, is tapped to lead the cabinet. The constitution is suspended and the parliament disbanded.
Feb. 14: A Six-Month Plan
The military lays out a six-month timetable to draft a new constitution and hold new parliamentary and presidential elections, vowing to cede power to a newly elected civilian government within that time. In the wake of the uprising, Egypt’s well-organized Islamist groups want to see elections first, while the liberals and secularists prefer to write a constitution first. Ultimately the Islamists win out.
Feb. 25: Military Crushes New Protests
Only weeks earlier, anti-Mubararak protesters chanted, “The army and the people, hand in hand!” But in the wake of Mubarak’s overthrow, the military makes clear that it has much less interest in dissent as protesters return to the square to demand a quicker transition to a democratic government. Security forces beat protesters and tear down their tents. The Muslim Brotherhood, which had rallied in Tahrir Square to unseat Mubarak, stays largely quiet now.
March 9: Protesters Arrested
The army and military police clear out Tahrir Square, rounding up liberal activists and taking them to the famed Egyptian Museum, where they torture them. Ramy Essam, a young singer who wrote protest songs in Tahrir Square and was later arrested by the security forces, said he was beaten with wooden sticks and iron bars, and tortured with electrical shocks. Around 150 men and women protesters are ultimately tried and convicted in military courts, and sent to military prisons.
“They tried to humiliate us and taunt us with names while they tortured us, trying to break us and destroy our dignity. They would say, “Are you happy with your revolution now?”
Oct. 9: Military Crushes Christian Protest At Maspero
In recent years, Coptic Christians, which make up around 10 percent of Egypt’s population, were exposed to a steady uptick in attacks from Islamist militants. The Mubarak regime did little to protect them, and the new military regime proves no better.
On Oct. 9, Coptic Christians gather to protest at Cairo’s Maspero television building, angry that state television had appeared to incite violence against them. They quickly come under fire by armed troops, while armored vehicles plow people down. It is the first time the military has used lethal force so publicly. Twenty-seven protesters are killed, including a young man, Mina Daniel, who becomes a celebrated martyr.
“We came under gunfire and were pursued by armored vehicles… It was a horrible scene. I could not find Mina. …Then someone told me he had been taken to the hospital. There I found Mina in the morgue. He looked like he was sleeping, with a smile on his face.”
Nov. 28: Muslim Brotherhood Sweeps Elections
Egypt begins to vote in parliamentary elections, a six-week process that results in an overwhelming victory for Islamist parties. In the lower house, the Muslim Brotherhood wins the majority of seats, with the ultraconservative Salafis taking another quarter, putting religious groups in control of the parliament. In the upper house, Islamists take nearly 90 percent of the seats.
May 23: Presidential Elections Begin
The first round of voting in presidential elections narrows a field of 13 candidates down to two finalists: Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, and Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister under Mubarak.
June 15: Military Grabs More Power
The day before the presidential runoff election, the military, acting on a ruling by the Supreme Court, shuts down the parliament. It also awards itself sweeping new powers, including control over the national budget and the power to issue laws — effectively diluting the power of the president, which by this time appears likely to be Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, whom the military opposes. A day later, Morsi wins the election.
June 30: Morsi Sworn In As President
Morsi, the first Islamist to be elected as head of state, is also the first civilian leader in Egypt. He promises to be a president to “all Egyptians” and yanks open his suit jacket to show the cheering crowd that he is not wearing body armor — underscoring that he is not afraid. But the military’s power grab weeks earlier sets up a bitter power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular military.
“Here we are, the first democratically elected president in the entire history of Egypt. And it was like stepping into the warm sunshine after a long, long cold winter.”
Aug. 12: Morsi Orders Top Generals To Retire
Attempting to reclaim the powers of the presidency, Morsi orders the retirement of the top Mubarak-era military leadership and nullifies the military’s June declaration. He chooses Gen. Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, former head of military intelligence, as his defense minister.
Nov. 21: Morsi Grants Himself More Power
Morsi issues a decree allowing him to take any and all actions that he deems necessary to protect the country. The move sparks days of protests.
Nov. 29: Islamists Finish Draft Constitution
A few weeks earlier,liberal coalitions pulled out of writing the document in protest, leaving the Islamists to finish the task. Human-rights groups have several concerns about the final draft, which also enshrines into law the power and privileges that the military had enjoyed under Mubarak.
“Women, Christians, intellectuals, all these were sidelined in the new constitution. They would say, ‘You can have liberty of expression, freedom, etc. — if it is in conformity with Sharia.’”
Dec. 4: Egyptians March On Presidential Palace
More than 100,000 protest the draft constitution and Morsi’s new powers, chanting “Leave! Leave!” The police fire tear gas, but allow the crowd to surge to the palace walls. The next day, Islamists attack an anti-Morsi sit-in, sparking street battles that leave at least 10 dead.
Jan. 25: Protesters Return To Tahrir
On the two-year anniversary of Mubarak’s overthrow, hundreds of thousands gather in Tahrir Square for another protest against Morsi and what they perceive as his abuse of power. Protesters clash with police in Cairo and across Egypt, and more than 100 are injured in the violence.
Feb-March: Protests Spread
Following a massive fuel shortage and widespread electricity blackouts, protests rage in cities across Egypt for weeks, with dozens dying in the clashes between civilians and security forces.
April: New Protest Movement Emerges
A group of young activists start a petition calling for Morsi to step down. They called themselves “Tamarod,” which means “rebel,” and demand new elections, calling for mass protests on the June anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration.
June 21: Sisi Warns Morsi
By mid-June, Tamarod says it’s gathered 22 million signatures on its petition. Sisi issues a public statement warning that the growing “split in society” between Morsi’s supporters and their opponents might compel the military “to intervene.”
Following Sisi’s statement, Morsi’s inner circle begins to suspect an impending coup by a military unwilling to be governed by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
““If the street becomes the way of removing a democratically elected president one year into his mandate, then no other presidency will survive in the future.”
June 29: Sisi Demands Concessions
Sisi meets with Morsi to propose concessions, including the appointment of a new prime minister and cabinet that would assume all legislative powers. The new leadership would also replace Morsi’s provincial governors, who were largely drawn from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Morsi’s representatives later say that he agreed to those demands, but refused to relinquish the presidency. Members of Morsi’s inner circle told FRONTLINE they’re not to blame for the government’s poor performance and that they have been undermined by the “deep state” — the remnants of Mubarak’s old regime, including the military, police, and state media.
June 30: Protests Ignite
Millions of Egyptians pour into the streets, calling for Morsi to step down on the first anniversary of his election to office. Eight people are killed in clashes outside the Muslim Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters.
July 1: Military Gives Ultimatum
As protests continue, Sisi appears on state television, ordering Morsi to come up with a political solution within 48 hours. “If you have not obeyed the people after 48 hours, it will be our … duty to put forward a road map for the future instead,” he says.
“I will not allow anyone to dispute my legitimacy. This is unacceptable. Unacceptable! Unacceptable!”
July 3: Military Removes Morsi From Office
The elite Republican Guard, ostensibly assigned to protect the president, places Morsi under house arrest, prohibiting him from communicating with anyone or from leaving the room. In the following hours, the new military leadership, led by Sisi, suspends the constitution and shuts down at least three Islamist television stations and issues arrest warrants for 300 Muslim Brotherhood officials, according to state media. Morsi’s supporters declare it a “military coup.”
“The armed forces couldn’t plug its ears or close its eyes as the movement and demands of the masses calling for them to play a national role, not a political role as the armed forces themselves will be the first to proclaim that they will stay away from politics.”
July 4: A New President Steps In
Supreme Court Chief Justice Adly Mansour is chosen by Sisi to step in as Egypt’s interim president. A few weeks later, he chooses an interim cabinet that includes no Islamists.
July 8: Morsi Loyalists Gunned Down
Soldiers and police open fire on hundreds of Morsi supporters gathered in Cairo. At least 50 protesters and three soldiers are killed. The military says the protesters provoked the attack.
July 9: Military Vows To Speed Transition
The military-led interim government lays out an accelerated timetable to transition to civilian democracy, with plans to draft a new constitution, and hold elections for parliament and a president within six months. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia pledge billions in emergency aid. Meanwhile, the persistent food and fuel shortages under Morsi suddenly cease.
July 26: Egyptians Rally For Sisi
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians rally across Egypt in support of the armed forces, after Sisi appears on television in full military dress and sunglasses, and asks for a mandate to fight “terrorism.” Morsi supporters hold smaller rallies. Meanwhile, prosecutors say they are investigating Morsi for conspiring with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
“The animosity against the Brotherhood is so intense that there really does seem to be a desire to just wipe them off the political playing field. And I’ve had conversations with people where their solution is, in Arabic translates to, ‘Just round them all up.’ … How do we function as a country when we’ve rounded up 15 percent of the dissidents?”
Aug. 14: Military Breaks Up Protests
Muslim Brotherhood members and their supporters had been camped out for days in front of the Rabaa mosque in Cairo, protesting the military’s ouster of Morsi. Egyptian military and police had threatened to break up the camps, despite a series of high-level meetings from the U.S. and Europe asking the military to hold off. Sisi had promised a humane dispersal.
On Aug. 14, wearing riot gear and driving armored vehicles and bulldozers, the security forces move in, killing at least 600 people and wounding thousands more. The attack, aided by snipers, lasts for more than 12 hours.
Following the violence, Mansour, the interim president, announces a return to martial law that existed under Mubarak, and imposes a curfew.
Aug. 15: U.S. Condemns, But Keeps Aid Coming
Obama gives a statement on Egypt, saying he “strongly condemns the steps that have been taken” by the government and security forces. He cancels a biannual joint military exercise, scheduled for September, but opts not to cut the $1.3 billion the U.S. provides annually in military aid. “America cannot determine the future of Egypt,” he says.
Aug. 22: Mubarak Released From Prison
After an Egyptian court rules he can no longer be incarcerated, Mubarak is released from prison. He remains under house arrest, and still faces charges of complicity in the killing of more than 850 protesters killed during the Jan. 25 revolution. The trial has been adjourned until October 19.
Sept. 1: Morsi is Charged with “Inciting Killing”
Morsi and 14 other members of the Muslim Brotherhood are to stand trial for “committing acts of violence and inciting killing and thuggery,” prosecutors announce. Military officials also appoint a new assembly, which contains almost no Islamists, to draft a new constitution.
Sept. 5: Top Minister Survives Assassination Attempt
Egypt’s Interior Minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, narrowly survives a suicide car bomb that explodes near his motorcade. The attack is seen as retaliation for the aggressive government crackdown in recent weeks that has left more than 1,000 Morsi supporters dead. Ibrahim oversees the police, who have fired on protesters, alongside the military. A militant Islamist group in the Sinai claims responsibility a few days later, promising more attacks.
“God allowed us to break the security system of the Minister of Interior … through a suicide operation committed by one of Egypt’s lions that made the Interior butcher see death with his eyes, and what is to come will be worse.”
Sept 10: Run, Sisi, Run
A newspaper writer, Khaled Al Adawi, starts up a campaign to encourage Sisi to run for president, The Wall Street Journal reports. Sisi says through a military spokesman that he doesn’t want to run, and that the military doesn’t support the candidacy of a general. But his supporters — those who appreciate Sisi’s role in overthrowing Morsi and want to see a strong leader — say he doesn’t have a choice.
“The decision is not Sisi’s or the government’s, it is the Egyptian people’s decision. Presidency in Egypt is a commission, not an honorary position, so if Sisi doesn’t take the job when asked by the people, he will be putting himself in confrontation with the Egyptian people.”
Sept. 11: Car Bomb Strikes Egyptian Intelligence
The military has stepped up its offensive against Islamists in this desert region near Gaza since Morsi was ousted. On this day, two suicide car bombs explode at a military intelligence building in the Sinai Peninsula, in another mark of escalating violence between Islamists and the military, killing six soldiers and five others.
Sept. 12: Egypt Extends State of Emergency
The president’s office says that the security situation in the country warrants a two-month extension of the state of emergency, which grants security forces extra powers. The country had been under a state of emergency for nearly three decades under Mubarak. It was one of the first rules lifted by the military in 2011 to begin the transition to democracy.
SUPPORT PROVIDED BY
NEXT ON FRONTLINERaising Adam LanzaEncore PresentationDecember 10th
FRONTLINE Watch FRONTLINE About FRONTLINE Contact FRONTLINE
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2013 WGBH Educational Foundation
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.