The continued crackdown on protest movements should come as no surprise: the military has simply moved forward via their modus operandi of violence and suppression. This week saw the arrest of tens of protestors under the auspice of the new Protest Law, the jailing of 21 female pro-Morsi protestors in Alexandria, and the issuing of arrest warrants for two of Egypt’s more prominent activists, one of whom was beaten along with his wife before being detained. The list, unfortunately, goes on. Dr Hellyer in his article for the Daily News asked the question on many of our minds, “How many times does Egypt have to do this to get it right?”
We’ve come full circle once again, returning to a complete military state. There are only a few signs though that perhaps this time things may be different. Protests at Egyptian universities have become more frequent; students have literally thrown their lives back on the line in defiance of the current regime. The military only stands to make more enemies as the strike down protestors with impunity.
One of the last prominent secular allies of the military, Tamarod, has finally left their side; at the very least, there is no longer unified support from the front. As reported by the Daily News and Ahram Online, the campaign has disavowed those who were once its figureheads. This includes Mahmoud Badr and Mohamed Abdel Aziz, Tamarod’s Constituent Assembly members, along with five other members who were all referred for internal questioning.
The change in direction for Tamarod marks an important shift for the front for two reasons. First, if we are to believe Tamarod’s numbers, their ability to mobilise Egyptians may be significantly stronger than any other single revolutionary faction. If they continue on the path they have laid out for themselves, they may be able to recover from their loss of legitimacy in light of their support for the Rabaa crackdowns.
Second, Tamarod’s distancing of themselves from the rhetoric of their former leaders represents a hopeful shift away from endorsing violence that is indicative of wider discontent. During an interview with Reuters this past August, Badr was quoted saying, “What Egypt is passing through now is the price, a high price, of getting rid of the Brotherhood’s fascist group before it takes over everything and ousts us all.” This sentiment is precisely the type that enabled (if not emboldened) the actions of the military as it continued to try to purge the country of one of its oldest political groups. Both the tacit and explicit endorsement of this position was and continues to be startling, but by renouncing these old leaders, the Tamarod campaign has opened the door to once again being a force for real change in Egypt.
Moreover, in light of the obscene Protest Law and indiscriminate arrests, it could be that more and more of Egypt has realized they’ve made a Faustian deal in the wake of Morsi’s ouster. The military government continues to fail to provide even a semblance of legitimacy, and it seems doubtful a legitimate constitution would follow. The silver lining to all this is that if the military continues in the manner they have been, they may lose enough support to tip the balance in favor of populism. After the crackdown it was a grim question of whether or not the interim government really thought they could bloody the Brotherhood into submission. Now it has become increasingly a question of whether they think they can bloody the whole electorate into submission. Unless the past three years have been for nothing, the military is unlikely to succeed where their predecessors did not.