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August 26th, 2013

Violence Escalates Between Security Forces and Protesters in Egypt


Clashes between Egyptian law enforcement and supporters of the ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi continue to escalate, prompting fears that Egypt could follow nearby Syria into civil war.

A supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi reacts after identifying the body of a dead family member at a hospital in the Nasr City district of Cairo on August 14, 2013.

A supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi reacts after identifying the body of a dead family member at a hospital in the Nasr City district of Cairo on August 14, 2013.

The current violence in Egypt began when military leaders ousted democratically elected President Morsi in a coup in early July, barely a year after he took office.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s main support base, protested the coup and built camps around Cairo to sustain their opposition. But the military cracked down on the demonstrations, killing at least 72 protesters in one day in late July.

Since then, the military and police have vowed to crush the protests. Their harsh tactics have resulted in the deaths of nearly 1,000 people and more than 100 police officers.

“The objective wasn’t to use massive force,” Mohamed Tawfik, Egypt’s ambassador to the United States, told the NewsHour about the crackdown. “The objective wasn’t to get anyone killed. The objective was to apply the rule of law.”

However, the violence seems has bolstered the case of the Muslim Brotherhood, who have traditionally held the role of the oppressed opposition group within Egypt.

“We have no guns. We have no — we have water, only water. We have our bodies, only our bodies,” said one protester.

“They have stolen our votes, and we want our votes back,” said another. “And we are not going to leave the streets, whatever happens, before getting the democracy back.”

Recently, Mohammed al-Baradei, a Nobel laureate and prominent secular political leader who helped organize the Egyptian revolution in 2011, stepped down from his post as Egypt’s interim vice president in protest over the violent tactics of the military.egyptlpimage

Crackdown considered threat to a democratic Egyptian future

The military removed President Morsi from office July 3 after citizens held massive rallies to protest his job performance. Frustration stemmed from the bleak economy, high unemployment, a tourism industry that has not recovered from the 2011 uprising and major fuel shortages that have caused transportation pains.

“No, the army didn’t carry out a coup,” said Egyptian protester Rida Abdul Malak. “This is the people’s will. The Muslim Brotherhood has failed. They failed to govern.”

However, as the country failed to accept its first-ever democratically elected leader, some worry that the country is not yet ready for a democratic system of government.

“Incremental change produces more durable results; liberal democracies must be constructed from the ground up,” wrote Georgetown University professor Charles A. Kupchan in a recent New York Times op-ed. “Constitutional constraints, judicial reform, political parties, economic privatization — these building blocks of democratic societies need time to take root.”

Egypt waits on elections

As the military, police and protesters battle on the streets of Cairo, the Egyptian people wait to vote in new elections.

Judge Adly Mansour has been sworn in as the country’s temporary leader. Mansour is the former chief justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, who says he will uphold the spirit of the 2011 revolution while quickly organizing new presidential and parliamentary elections.

“I vow to safeguard the republican system and to respect the law and constitution and to look after the interests of the people and to preserve the independence of the homeland and its safety,” he said at his swearing-in ceremony.

Despite these promises, no dates have been announced for elections.

— Compiled by Allison McCartney and Katie Gould for NewsHour Extra

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