January 17, 2019

Egypt’s army chief calls for mass demonstrations

This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

Egypt’s military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi today called for mass rallies on Friday to give him a mandate to confront violence. Coming three weeks after the army deposed Mohamed Morsi, the call puts pressure on Islamists, who vow they will continue to fight for Morsi to be reinstated.

Morsi supporters said they would also go out into the streets on Friday, which could lead to possible violence. Since Morsi’s overthrow some 100 Egyptians have been killed in fighting between the two groups. In the most recent clashes, at least nine Morsi supporters were killed when police opened fire on some 1000 people at a sit-in near Cairo University.

Al-Sisi said that Morsi was being held in a secure location for his own safety. In a press conference this week, Morsi’s son Osama said the family has not heard from Mohamed Morsi since he was overthrown. He also said he will sue Al-Sisi in the International Criminal Court.

Egypt has been rocked by huge protests in the past month. On June 30 some 17 million people took to the streets to demand Morsi resign. Many say he has failed to lead Egypt to real democracy and has pushed through a draft constitution that favors Islamists.

Al-Sisi was a member of the military council that ruled Egypt for 16 months after long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down. At that time, he was the chief of military intelligence. Morsi named him defense minister and military chief almost a year ago. He also repeated his promise that parliamentary elections will be held next year.

Morsi supporters say they will continue to use peaceful means to have their leader reinstated.

“I will not fight to regain my vote that was taken away,” Bahaa Mohammed, an Egyptian soldier told The Media Line. “I hear the rumors that we are aggressive, and terrorists, but really we’re just patient people. They [referring to anti-Morsi activists] are brain washed by the opposition media which is run by the sons and relatives of the corrupt Mubarak regime.”

In violence this week, at least 11 people were killed at Cairo University. Violence has also increased in the Sinai Peninsula, with frequent attacks on police there. The army says it has launched a crackdown to restore its control over Sinai.

Last week, four women – all supporters of Morsi — were killed in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura.

“The thugs were military and police dressed in civilian cloth or real thugs who are paid and drugged to commit such terrible actions.” Said Sonia the spokeswoman of the Committee to Protect Women told The Media Line.

The ongoing violence has divided Egyptians over the future of their country. Egypt was seen as a model of peaceful transition when Hosni Mubarak stepped down. A military coalition took over and paved the way for democratic elections.

But in the last few weeks, fears have grown that violence could spread among Egypt’s 85 million people, many of whom live in poverty. A growing economic crisis is exacerbating tensions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has postponed finalizing a $4 billion loan to Egypt because of the tensions although Qatar has given money to keep the country afloat,.

While some welcome the military’s intervention into Egypt’s politics, others, even non-Morsi supporters, worried that the military presence could become permanent.

“I am with Morsi now more than before even though I didn’t vote for him, Said Mohamed Taher, a taxi driver told The Media Line. “I feel that legitimacy and democracy were stolen by the military.”

Morsi supporters also say that soldiers are defecting from the army and joining their ranks.

“The people who are killed in the protests have relatives in the army and police, and when one man dies, the whole family [tribe] comes out and tries to seek revenge,” Mohamed al-Amir, a pro-Morsi activist. “Now the soldiers do not want to attack protestors. I have information that when soldiers go visit their families, they are not coming back to the service.”