Anti-Government Protests Turn Deadly in Egypt
It looks like Egypt’s “Arab Spring” might turn into a long winter of discontent.
At least seven people were killed and hundreds injured Wednesday, in violent confrontations between supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.
Earlier this year, Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected leader.
But nearly two years after Egyptians overthrew their former president, Hosni Mubarak, many pro-democracy activists are now concerned that Morsi is turning into another dictator.
“In fact, it is perhaps even worse (now),” said Egyptian Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, according to the Associated Press (AP).
ElBaradei spoke on Wednesday, after a large group of Morsi supporters attacked a group of anti-government protesters outside Egypt’s presidential palace in the city of Cairo.
The situation got so violent that Egyptian military leaders gave both sides until 3 o’clock this afternoon (Cairo time) to leave the area outside the palace.
This latest round of anti-government protests began two weeks ago.
That’s when Morsi issued a decree saying that the Egyptian court system could no longer review his decisions.
In other words, he gave himself the power to do basically whatever he wants – and no judge has the power to stop him.
According to Reuters news service, Morsi said he issued the decree so pro-Mubarak judges would not block his reforms.
But opponents say Morsi is undermining Egyptian democracy.
Morsi has also angered his opponents by pushing Egyptians to approve a new constitution, even though the document does not protect the rights of women, religious minorities and the media.
Egyptians are scheduled to vote on that proposed constitution later this month.
“Cancel the constitutional declarations, postpone the (vote), stop the bloodshed and enter a direct dialogue with the (opposition),” ElBaradei told Morsi, according to the AP.
Despite the anti-government protests, Morsi still has strong support among fellow conservative Muslims – members of a group called the Muslim Brotherhood.
And thousands of his supporters have gathered around the presidential palace this week to defend him.
“We came here to support President Morsi and his decisions,” said Emad Abou Salem, in an interview with Reuters. “He is the elected president of Egypt.”
“I don’t want Morsi to back down,” said another supporter, Khaled Omar, in an interview with the AP. “We are not defending him. We are defending Islam, which is what people want.”
President Obama has been a strong backer of the pro-Democracy movement in Egypt and other predominantly Muslim countries.
According to the Washington Post, U.S. officials are now working behind the scenes to get Morsi to meet with opposition leaders.
“We call on all (people) in Egypt to settle their differences through democratic dialogue,” said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to the Post. “And we call on Egypt’s leaders to ensure that the outcome protects the democratic promise of the (Arab Spring) revolution for all of Egypt’s citizens.”
If not, Cairo might see more protests similar to the ones two years ago – protests that led to Mubarak’s removal.
And Morsi might be the next to go.
“Egyptians will gather everywhere and use all viable means,” ElBaradei said, according to the Post. “We will not end this battle we entered for freedom and dignity until we are victorious.”