Judging from Twitter, Egypt is in complete chaos.
Online, protesters in the square tweeted pictures of a Tahrir Square that resembled the first, triumphant images of the Arab Spring and shared updates as the news broke. Initiatives such as Tahrir Bodyguard and Operation Anti Sexual Harassment, which formed in response to the rampant sexual assault that characterized the anti-Mubarak uprising, shared phone numbers for hotlines and how to intervene as a bystander if one were to witness a potential assault.
In the streets, demonstrators have stormed and ransacked the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood, lighting office equipment on fire in the streets. Over the past two days, 16 people have been killed and more than 781 have been injured. Despite the presence of initiatives like Tahrir Bodyguard and Operation Anti Sexual Harassment, more than 40 sexual assaults were reported in the first night alone and even more happened the following night.
Still, this hasn’t stopped more than one million protesters from flooding the streets.
The protests began on Sunday June 30—marking the anniversary of when Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected to power exactly one year ago. Although there was a significant presence of opposition protesters celebrating President Morsi’s rule and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power, they were vastly outnumbered by those that took to the streets shouting, “Ash-shab yureed isqat an-nizzam”—or, “The people, they want an end to the regime.”
But this time they are looking to overthrow President Morsi, not President Mubarak.
Since President Morsi assumed power one year ago, political and economic conditions for many Egyptians have considerably worsened. In the new constitution, which holds sharia law as its primary source of legislation, openly discriminates against religious and other minorities and has lowered the status of women. Economically, foreign currency reserves are crashing and depending on loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and unemployment is at an abysmal 15 percent. Although press freedom initiatives and political activism have faced less repression than under Mubarak’s dictatorship, as Morsi’s presidency evolves it is beginning to resemble a dictatorial regime more than a democratic presidency that excludes the rights of many Egyptians while woefully mismanaging the economy.
Over the past few months, a grassroots political initiative known as Tamarrod (“rebellion” in Egyptian Arabic) organized a petition calling for the resignation of President Mohammed Morsi and early elections to replace the Muslim Brotherhood. After receiving 22 million signatures, the movement chose the upcoming anniversary of President Morsi’s leadership to take their discontent into the streets and re-ignite the Egyptian Revolution.
In the weeks leading up to the planned protests, key organizers with Tamarrod were attacked, including Adel al-Hassan, who was shot in the leg and left partially paralyzed. Although the attacker remains unknown, other indications—such as previous attacks on members of his family—suggest that it was an assassin of President Morsi and linked to the planned protests. Still, these incidents—and predictable threats of violence—did not seem to deter people from going into the streets, as suggested by the volume of protesters that flooded and continue to flood Tahrir Square.
In solidarity with the protesters, ten Muslim Brotherhood officials have officially resigned from their posts.
On Monday, after the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood had been stormed, General Abdel Fattah Sisi, the head of the Special Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) issued a statement that gave President Morsi an ultimatum of 48 hours. According to the statement, he could either meet the demands of the protesters and negotiate a new balance of powers or resign or the military leaders of the SCAF would institute their own political “road map” to resolve the crisis—and history would repeat itself.
Many protesters, including Tamarrod, saw this as a victory and cheered as military helicopters flew overhead chanting “the army and the people are one hand!” Others lamented the sudden support and celebration of the army as “Stockholm Syndrome” and “Political Amnesia,” referencing the violent dictatorial-like regime the SCAF imposed on Egypt last time it assumed power in the wake of former President Hosni Mubarak’s ousting.
However, the Egyptian presidential administration responded to the statement—which they termed the threat of a “military coup”—with a reminder that it could not move forwards without approval from the United States, which still largely funds the Egyptian military. United States President Barack Obama responded to the turmoil with an announcement that President Morsi had not yet—and would not—lose his backing, claiming that these decisions were not based on the number of people at a given protest.
Who knows what will happen tomorrow.