The day the revolution died

See, I’d always assumed it was because of people not liking Mohammad Morsi personally, or sour grapes, or some sort of abstract ideal of a perfect, secular democracy that some in the Egyptian secular/liberal opposition carried on like they did. I thought that although it behaved disingenuously in first competing in (and claiming foul play in its loss) then boycotting, then demanding snap elections because it had gained some ground in opinion polls, that it was still, at its nebulous and competing heart, a movement formed around that essential kernel of revolutionary spirit and thirst for freedom so abundantly demonstrated during 18 days of uprising and then 18 months enduring the worst excesses of a brutal military dictatorship.

I was wrong.

After millions of people protested in Egypt yesterday – for and against Morsi, but overwhelmingly, must be said, against – the Supreme Council of Armed Forces today announced, in thinly veiled fashion, a 48hr ultimatum for Morsi – Egypt’s first democratically elected president – to step down, or else it would be exacting a military coup. (Even if SCAF doesn’t physically seize power, this is still a coup, given Morsi’s position as head of state and his sidelining in recent SCAF discussions; and, by waiting until the “opposition” took to the streets thereby ensuring all it has to do is refuse any Brotherhood olive branch and the 48hr deadline has been reached, is still an outrageous impingement of junta will on civilian politics). This is the same SCAF that oversaw the brutal clearing of Tahrir Square and the massacres of protestors at Mohammad Mahmoud and Maspero, that stuck up for security forces finger raping women protesters, that stamped on the chest of the blue bra girl, that allowed Port Said to happen on its watch, that imprisoned more than 12,000 civilians in military jails. This is the same SCAF that hundreds of thousands of people rallied against, the target of a million “yasqut, yasqut hokm l askar” chants. The SCAF that oversaw more than a year, basically, of tyrannous chaos while insisting it was only in the job temporarily.

I knew that some of the opposition had been openly calling for SCAF to take control, to fulfil some sort of warped, democratic-reset-through-authoritarian-force personal fantasy for a while. I knew that resentment for Morsi ran deep. But nothing can prepare you for the spectacle today: Of the so-called revolutionaries scrambling to justify the threat of a goddamn military coup.

Egypt is in a bad shape. I know that. Morsi is not what people had hoped he would be. That too. But when you have people cheering in their thousands – in Tahrir, online, outside the Presidential Palace – when a man named Al-Sisi stands up and basically mandates the forcible removal of the president – as unpopular and imperfect and even clueless as he may be – then you begin to realise something: The counter revolution, the one that has been masquerading as the revolution ever since it realised it couldn’t get organised quick enough to compete with a political party that has had eight good decades to prepare for a vote and to consolidate a support base large enough to win not one but four elections, is almost complete.

I don’t know why people like Mahmoud Salem and his Twitter followers so enjoy the prospect of a return to military power.

They will say it’s only because Morsi is doing such a bad job – as if the 30 years of state neglect and financial sandcastle building didn’t exist and it was the current president exclusively and unilaterally who ruined the economy and divided the nation – that they support a coup, and only then temporarily. (SCAF’s track record at “temporary” shouldn’t have earned it the benefit of the doubt here).

They’ll say Morsi has lost his mandate to govern because millions of people oppose him. They will say that they cannot wait for elections for such a body of discontent to manifest itself via the ballot box. (Some will even tell you that elections are overrated while swearing blind they want free and fair democracy).

They will say it’s because Morsi is another Mubarak. People who say this either so deeply despise the concept of an Islamist president that they are prepared to whitewash history and evilly make the analogue between Morsi and the man who locked him up and saw him tortured, or else they are stupid. The comparison is cruel, bigoted, hateful and obviously just plain wrong. It’s like the “well, Hitler was elected, too,” moronic irrelevance that comes from the mouths of those otherwise gagged by hate. (Some of these same people will tell you that if you’re white your opinion is invalid, although in fairness not everyone is bigoted and childishly simplistic).

They will say that it’s because the country doesn’t really support the Brotherhood, it’s just that it hijacked the revolution by doing boring, non-revolutionary things like appealing to the needs of communities on a level of local governance, of appealing to the deep religiosity of millions and millions of Egyptians that the secularists find so bafflingly, condescendingly backward. (They will also claim that many of those who vote for the Brotherhood do so because they are paid or stupid).

They will say that the balance of support really lies with the opposition, and they will tell you their version of events on all sorts of things, such as Morsi’s dismissal of the feloul prosecutor general in a “power grab” so dictatorial that it was revoked amid popular protests. They will say all of this and know that, mostly, the media will say it their way too.

They will tell you that the Brotherhood sullied its revolutionary credentials by agreeing to a timetable for a transition to democracy and then daring to do something such as actually positioning itself to win a vote. They will do this while glossing over the eight decades of oppression the Brotherhood endured.

They will even make fun of the thousands of Islamists who were imprisoned and tortured under Mubarak; those who had red hot pokers inserted in them by cruel spymasters, then they’ll say that the Brotherhood isn’t cut out for democracy anyway.

They will tell you, look, I don’t hate Islamists and I’m not jealous that they got voted in while we were still putting our pants on, but they’ve had 12 months and still there’s a robust political divide so I’m bored now with this government.

Only the army can provide effective leadership in the coming days” – they will tell you things like this and mean it.

I’m often accused (not that this should be an accusation, but it is meant as one) of supporting the Brotherhood in general or Morsi in particular. For the record – I don’t think much of either. Both have made serious mistakes and misjudgements when it comes to listening to a broad spectrum of political voices. Chances to build consensus have been missed through carelessness and callousness. Of course opponents of Morsi have a right to mobilise whoever they want and stay on the streets for as long as they wish. I don’t believe the Brotherhood has a divine right to rule Egypt, but then again I don’t believe that it believes it does, either.

What I do believe is that a democratically elected administration – with all the displeasure and obviously widespread disapproval it produces – should be given a chance to carry out what it was mandated to do when it was voted in, en masse and repeatedly. I believe that no president could’ve dealt with the problems that Morsi has had to deal with, in the face of a non-cohesive, non-cooperative and at times downright obstructionist opposition, and certainly not in just 12 months. I also believe that while democracy is more than turning out to vote every amount of years, neither is it just a case of how many people groups can mobilise (it’s both, and to deny or scoff at either is your error). And I believe  if you tell an organisation with millions of ardent supporters, members of which have been imprisoned, tortured, terrorised, raped and killed over decades by oppressive state security, that, after enduring all these horrific wrongs, after the one time they are allowed to show their true strength in a legitimate, mass participation electoral process, that the result doesn’t matter and they’ll be leaving in 48 hours because you say so, then you deserve whatever backlash such a process provokes.

I also believe that if you really are serious about democracy, you kind of sit it out for a bit more than 12 measly months. I believe that if you gave two shits about the poor people who gave their lives for the revolution, who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that Egyptians could be free to choose their own leaders, you wouldn’t try to mitigate or explain away a return to military rule – you’d rage against it.

What I remember, moreover, is the people who were killed, tortured and terrorised under SCAF. I remember the blood and the injustice and the horrible, terrifying lack of accountability that comes with autocratic rule. I remember the police blinding people outside the Interior Ministry, when – forget birdshot and teargas – actual bullets were felling people. I remember seeing the grainy video, recorded on a cellphone of a Masri fan in Port Said, of an Ahly fan being physically beaten to death as the police stood and watched.

Now some people are carrying the police on their shoulders. I believe that is a betrayal.

I’ve learned a basic and terrifying truth today: That many would rather see a military junta rule with impunity and autocracy than see a democratic administarion govern with fecklessness and error. That many people who call themselves revolutionaries and advocates of democracy simply hate Islamism more than they love freedom. That people are fully prepared to welcome the army back to political life, with a cheer, two fingers up to those killed since 2011, and a good riddance to Egypt’s first experiment with democracyYou can keep your “revolution”.


  1. ES says

    Do you know that you cannot travel safely in Sinai peninsular? Egypt has virtually lost this region for now it terrorist.

    Why can’t distinguished Egyptian work as ministers or even Vice President? Except of course Islamist.

    Have you had opportunity to visit ministries and deal with new recruits? Small corruption may be excused but arrogance?

    Besides these negative achievements, no attention is paid to positive problems of the people. Ask the industrialists and they will tell you what shortage of diesel does to transport of goods.

  2. Hashim says

    Wow…shave your beard quickly…you morally bankrupt cretin. Democracy doesn’t not give anyone the right to use ex terrorists to threaten an entire nation, to impose supra constitutional documents giving a puppet president the power to do whatever the SG of the MB (still an illegal group) tells him to do. It doesn’t give you the right to fail to deliver basic needs (Water, electricity, gasoline, security, etc). Yesterday and today’s protests were at least double the size of Jan 2011. If that’s not a mandate to remove the master of religious veiled ineptitude, I don’t know what is. Is the army Can it be harnessed to achieve a more inclusive, prosperous Egypt? Definitely. Don’t ever underestimate the ability of Egyptians to learn from past mistakes. Its a chess game, and this time..WE are moving the pieces. Never again..and the MB will never get a mandate again.

    Now, slowly remove Gehad Haddad’s member from your trembling mouth and man up a bit. Smooches.

  3. Hadil says

    Egyptians couldn’t care less about Morsi personaly. This is about us being sick and tired of terrorism and the ones imposing it. No one has forgotten about SCAF’s brutality, but it doesn’t compare to the ruling party’s consent to misogyny, Shia killings and hate crimes against the Christians. No one is safe on the streets unless they’re bearded males. And did u forget about the constitution? And THAT blind eye? Maybe Egyptians would’ve been more tolerant if the value of our currency didn’t drop to half it’s worth, if electricity wasn’t that unsuitable, if we didn’t have to wait in 4 hour queues every few months for gas, or not have a prime minister whi didn’t talk about underwear & breastfeeding

    • Mariam says

      Briefly, didn’t you notice that ever since the Egyptians raided the streets, the gas and electricity problems weren’t present anymore?

      Its been feloul all along, plotting these schemes, hiring thugs to destroy the country one by one, killing peoples faith in the president. And of course all this occurred at the time of the new presidential ruling, so they can “frame” Morsi; so they can convince the people that ever since Morsi ruled, your country has only gotten worse. (which may not even be the case, and cannot be blamed on him alone)

      In my opinion, Morsi is a weak leader, for he should have captured these people that create “fasad” in our lovely Egypt as he knows them name by name before the people felt the urge to overthrow him, however as the article stated, people must think logically and put their egos aside: its better to have a stupid democratic leader, than a merciless military rule.

      Lastly, Morsi had said something very important during his speech two days ago, although tedious: that we must not let ourselves fall into “el fakh” (the trap). And it’s true. If you listen to the man now, he does not seem sad to leave the presidential throne, but more so scared for the suffering the Egyptian people will endure when the counter revolution takes over, again.

      May God be with those with a sound and good heart.
      May God protect our beloved Egypt.

  4. says

    You are deluded. What’s happening in Egypt is against both Authoritarianism and its religious form Islamism. If you can’t see there is a Revolution in Egypt then you are beyond hope. The Muslim brotherhood has nothing to do with Western ideals of democracy and human rights. The Egyptian people are in the streets not to bring the army back rather to bring down a fascist religious group that employs all means to achieve their sinister end much like Hitler in the 30’s. It’s also about Egyptian identity. The Muslim brotherhood is an international organization whose loyalty is to an ideal of Islamic Caliphate ruled by a religious autocrat by a law made and interpreted by them called Sharia (If you don’t wake up it’ll come to a Western country near you)! We in Egypt are fighting what we understand very well. The Muslim brotherhood is the ideological mother of all Islamists worldwide (including AlQaeda) ever since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Violence and religion are its tools, and it has a transnational totalitarian project. Do you have any idea how many Revolutionary youths have been brutally assassinated in the last year because they simply protested such fascism ?! I bet you have no idea. We are fighting an ideological and popular war for Egypt, and even though we are against Military rule, our own Egyptian army is more Egyptian than these Brotherhood fascist thugs who wish to turn Egypt into a Taliban-like state for all Islamist countries are the same to them. As for us Egypt with our long history we can never submit to such madness. It’s about identity, Egyptian identity. We are not Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or even Turkey, we are Egypt, the first true Nation state in history. We won’t be erased by such bloodthirsty mad men. Wake up, study the issue before giving credit to people who stand against all Western ideals even if they masquerade as their adherents. We know them. As for democracy, on the streets you have our ballot box. The Tamarod petition was signed by 22 millions. That’s democracy for you, direct and simple.

    • Tam says

      If you consider that “democracy,” you clearly have no idea what democracy is.

      Your comments only prove his point – these protests are more anti Islamist than anything. The secularists in the region can’t bear the thought that they aren’t in power. You mention “facism” and “autocracy.” How are these possible without the support of the Egyptian army? How is Morsi supposedly brutalizing his nation when the troops he is commander in chief of essentially function as a sort of supreme council over him? I would support your cause if I believed you, but your narrative simply makes no sense.

  5. Libyano says

    Justice is the core of any system… We will never see stability in the region as long as the double standards methodology is the norm! If we want democracy, we can not exclude Islamist or ask the Army to snatch power from a legitimate President! If we want to fight terrorism, we have to fight it in all its forms. If we want peace, it has to be for all!
    By allowing the military back in power, Egypt and the whole Arab Spring is “uturning” to uncertainty and chaos. Thank you, the so called “liberals” and “seculars” of Egypt, and get ready for a new golden era of terrorism/extermisim in the region. Do not come back crying!!!
    Bless you the writer of this article for the wisdom and depth you have shown.

  6. Barry York says

    Patrick, very good piece. It helped me clarify my own thoughts as a pro-democracy leftist who couldn’t reconcile the ‘secular western liberal’ demand for a revival of the autocratic remnants with the reality of a democratically elected Islamist government. The struggle was about democracy, not about some ideal replacement for the old regime but for the right of the people to decide. What is happening is disgusting and those who claim to support the protestos from a left-wing point of view are, at best, pseudo-leftists.

  7. Ashraf El-Kayar says

    The article merits the basket bin , simply because Morsi’s election was rigged in the first place .

  8. noha says

    Thank you for voicing exactly how I feel. I’m astounded at my fellow countrymen, as an egyptian today I shed tears of dissapointment in my people and tears for a dream that we have destroyed with our own hands by willingilly allowing ourselves to be brainwashed by mubarak’s media.

  9. Anissa Hassouna says

    Actually I find it very strange that people like you dare to classify arogantly Egyptians as being non revolutionary or hating freedom !! What do you know about our sentiments and daily life difficulties ? what do you know about Egyptians refusing polarization on religious bases ? If you think we are making a mistake don’t bother , we shall learn that our own way . Very strange indeed !!

  10. Aida Seif says

    If the situation is too complicated for you, despite the CV that wants to indicate that you “know it all” you should be honest enough to say so. It is too complicated and it is not homogeneous and it is dangerous. But to make that conclusion of a condescending title of your blog as well as frame the Egyptian people into “either or” is just making it too simple for yourself and barely grasps what is happening. Watch and worry and reflect and try to see the trees as well as the forest. WE are a people too huge to be summed up in one blog

  11. says

    I’m not Egyptian so I don’t speak for anyone but myself here. I think you make some excellent points about betrayal and the shocking approval by the people of a second military coup. You also bring up a very valid argument about the MB, difficult as it is to admit that. But there’s a question I’ve battled with for some time now: is the presidency simply unsuccessful, making stupid mistakes like any other government does or is it intentionally working toward fulfilling its own personal gains & claim to power instead of pulling the county out of a crisis? Because if it’s the latter, allowing Morsi and co. to live out the rest of the presidency could take the country to a point of no return. It would be too late. Having said that, SCAF is not a solution, neither permanently nor “temporarily”. In fact that would be hell all over again. But why does it have to be either/or? Why does it have to be that the MB sucks but oh wait SCAF sucks more? What about those millions who took to the streets? What about an opposition party? And I don’t ask you this only.. I ask all of the protesters who are welcoming a military takeover. Why can the opposition and the people protest but not have faith in their ability to create political movements independent of the brotherhood or of the military? The way I see it, the 48-hr ultimatum should be considered void by the people and the only important question to be asking now: is the opposition ready to move the country forward until, in and after the early elections they demand?

    • says

      You said :
      “is the presidency simply unsuccessful, making stupid mistakes like any other government does or is it intentionally working toward fulfilling its own personal gains & claim to power instead of pulling the county out of a crisis?”

      morsi supporters would definitely choose the first possibility while those are against morsi would go for the latter possibility… nobody can tell what is the right answer perhaps maybe its a mix of both possibilities .
      but the real question should be : who got the authority to decide the right answer and obligate others to live with his very opinion ??
      the military coup answered this question instead of Egyptians ( who can simply answer it in fair elections) and forced us to stick to its opinions

      this question simple could only arise from a faulty understanding of democracy only the Egyptians could answer this questions in fair elections
      even if whoever on earth thought that morsi was leading Egypt to hell
      cause on the other side others that believe morsi is leading them to heaven !

  12. Fanny says

    Aida Seif, I don’t think this is a condescending little blog and I thank you, Patrick, for your viewpoints and your courage. Nobody is going to listen, however, as most people have made up their minds and indeed would prefer anything to the presence of Islamism in Egypt, even oppression and police brutality and Papa Mubarak in the flesh. I expect nothing less than civil war and quite frankly, after the shallowness and stupid selfishness of the so-called progressive educated liberals, they almost deserve it. I just pity the poor and the downtrodden, but then again, they always get the rawest deal, anywhere, everywhere.

  13. Dardery says

    Thank you for speaking truth to corrupt mercenaries. What a betrayal for democratic principle and you know what, from Liberals in Egypt

  14. Anas says

    I cant express what iam feeling now in English or even Arabic
    I would express them only in tears
    I saw people in mohamed mahmoud street getting killed
    I cant forget the shiver I had when i knew the guy in front of me got killed
    I cant forget the great despair and anger I felt when i saw ( Set el banat) or the blue bra girl.
    I even have dreams about her
    I wish I could saved her that day or even killed those who kept hitting here brutally

    Greed,madness,hatred and corruption of Egyptian people and Egyptian are the causes of our state now

    may be those people are cheering now
    but believe me they will regret this very soon

    Our revolution Ended

  15. says

    One of the important principles of democracy is that once elected, democracy remains in force. I have to admit, this article seems like whiny sour grapes. Democracy is still in function in Egypt and underestimating the power of crowds in a democracy is a fundamental misunderstanding by the MB. But then again they are fundamentally an anti-democratic force seeking a theocratic totalitarianism in Egypt, as evinced by their actions over the past year. No surprise they have proven I competent; they are ideologically incapable of understanding the boundaries of their mandate.

  16. Redux says

    This is seriously lacking. It both laments the death of the revolution and yet manages to misunderstand the basic principles of any revolutionary situation.

    To put it starkly: legitimacy does not reside in the ballot box, legitimacy courses through the popular street. This is what revolutions do, they reassemble constitutive power in the body of the people. Mursi will not be the last elected leader to be deposed.

    What matters is staying the course, and pushing revolutionary gains and demands. The MB and Morsi have done everything they can do contain that – from entrenching the security apparatus, to their torture and imprisonment of activists, to their genuflection to imperial power, to Shatter’s neoliberal revanchism, to the constitutional power play, to their shameful pandering to sectarian discourse. Mursi certainly isn’t Mubarak, but the MB have long been part of the governmental apparatus of a now rejected era of politics. That did not change. This is not about Islamism vs Liberalism – that is a false choice.

    Millions of people in the street is a world historical event of undeniable magnitude. Not the Army/SCAF, who were already defeated once despite – lest we forget – the systematic collusion of the MB, nor the liberals of the NSF, nor the felool media and their (agreed) Islamophobism, nor the peripherals that call for the military to step in can contain its force as revolutionary event.

    And no amount of the inane tweets that you cite (and they are truly awful) will convince anyone that the revolutionary core on the street is dumb enough to roll-over for the army. People have a strange relationship with the army, its true; and seeing police officers join the protests is positively stomach-turning; but I think few have forgotten what SCAF rule was or who defeated it. This process is never without risks, but it also takes a bit of faith.

  17. Angela Harutyunyan says

    Well said. Those who are deluded with the pathos of the crowds have no idea that the day after the revolution is for the administration of things, and this is a messy business. Or perhaps, a more Freudian interpretation – Ikhwan could not substitute the missing father (phallus) that those calling for the army’s takeover are missing. But if Morsi wants to salvage the last remnants of democracy and presidential legitimacy, he has no choice but to call for early elections now.
    In any case, here’s an article that rhymes with yours.

  18. says

    Well said. Those who are deluded with the pathos of the crowds have no idea that the day after the revolution is for the administration of things, and this is a messy business. Or perhaps, a more Freudian interpretation – Ikhwan could not substitute the missing father (phallus) that those calling for the army’s takeover are missing. But if Morsi wants to salvage the last remnants of democracy and presidential legitimacy, he has no choice but to call for early elections now.
    In any case, here’s an article that rhymes with yours.

  19. JS says

    I agree with the first half of the article, the army shouldn’t take sides. I hate how they are yet again being hailed as saviors. If they take a stand with you it means one day you’ll be on the other side of the equation – that day was merely 18 months ago! Most revolutionaries I’ve spoken to share the same belief. In Itihadiya yesterday a fellow revolutionary was there and told me whenever people started cheering the Army other people started shouting ‘down with military rule’. But the fact of the matter is the revolutionaries now share the ground with people whose first priority is a ‘secular rule’, and second or third or whatever priority is democracy. People who never hit the streets before, people who would never say ‘down with the military rule’. The distinction between Islamist, Felool and revolutionary is still glaringly apparent. None of these groups have found a compromise to work together.
    For the second part of the article, just because we elected him for 4 years doesn’t mean we have to stick to them. He won by a minor majority, if public opinion has shifted and people feel very strongly about finding alternative leadership then we should be given the opportunity to withdraw confidence and call for early elections. It happens even in the west albeit in a more orderly fashion. I do think we should do that without Army help. Mosri should be pressured into an early election while still maintaining his position as president for the 90 days. And he should be allowed to run again. And if public opinion has truly shifted he will lose. Plain and simple! Army should have stayed out. It would have taken us longer to get there, but we’d get there in a more justifiable process that does not leave the MB any excuse to feel like they’ve been robbed of their chance by the old regime/army.

  20. says

    The revolution was never about “Democracy.” The demands of the people from the beginning were “Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice.” The revolutionaries fundamentally distrust the Democratic process, as is evidenced by the repeated insistence on low voter turnout. Despite the fact that Mursi won the majority of voters in the elections, activists continually emphasize that he only won 15 million votes out of 80+ million Egyptians. Americans might see this as a mandate, but the revolutionaries are pushing for a new type of politics, outside of the hallowed halls of political institutions occupied by state elites, and out on the streets. The Army did not assist this revolution with their announcement on July 1, they tried–once again–to redirect its power and enthusiasm into a process they think they can control. But the revolution will continue as long as people feel they are not being represented in the political process–regardless of whether that process is covered in the trappings of Democracy or not

  21. Affi says

    Egyptians please do not ask for democracy any more as you do not believe in your vote. If they are wrong they should be voted out in next election. No democracy for Egypt.

  22. says

    To all who cry over democracy in Egypt … what happened is the democracy at its best … yes it is an elected president … but he jeopardized a whole nation … people went out to the streets in peaceful demonstrations … and said : your ways in governing our country are bad … we are no longer supporter to you …. we do not approve your policies … the Army , the religious leaders , and all political parties including the ruling party were invited to sit together and talk and discuss … the president was asked peacefully to step down and early elections to be in place … but his arrogance blinded his eyes and hear … his speech was a clear call for a civil war … he hired retired terrorists and Hamas to come and kill his own people … and when the Army Head representing all parties and speaking for them in a public conference spoke , Mama America did not like it … why , because the Muslim Brotherhood Delegate to the Presidency serves them and their non-so-hidden plan to control the world … really , American Democracy and Integrity don’t mix !

  23. says

    Well i am maybe not a good writer as you’re, But i can say one thing.
    may i?

    I am an Egyptian citizen and i am really really proud of my Egyptian Armed Force even if it is a coup.
    Thank you.

  24. says

    Even if I have other political views (Anarchist basic democratic system) I liked your article. Its well written and you made some great points. The counter revolution by the Egyptian army is a huge setback for all revolutiinary forces. I won’t miss Morsy and MB because i generally think that religion and politics is a bad combination but military rule is no option. #NoMorsy #NoScaf


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