What You Need to Know About Egypt

If you watch the news, or even just scan the headlines online, you’re probably aware that the crisis in Egypt is experiencing surging levels of violence. Unfortunately, even with so much information at our fingertips, it can still be hard to decipher exactly what is going on. Too many Americans have become desensitized or apathetic toward violence in the Middle East, but the truth is that each one of these conflicts has a different story and takes a toll on different people, including us. For this reason and many others, each of these devastating stories deserve our attention.

What were people protesting?

The protesters making headlines today are calling for President Muhammad Morsi to be removed from office. Morsi is the first democratically elected president of Egypt following the revolution just 2 short years ago. Protesters had many reasons to dislike Morsi, many of which involved political incompetence and stubbornness when it came to reaching out to other Egyptian political actors.

What was the result of the protests?

When the protests started to reach high levels, the military stepped in and announced a 48 hour ultimatum, after which they removed Morsi from office by force.

So what’s the issue now?

Morsi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and they wanted him to remain in power. While much of Egypt recognizes the removal of Morsi as legitimate, it is seen by others as an illegitimate military coup. Now, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic groups are protesting until Morsi is reinstated as president.

How bad is it?

The official death toll in Egypt is over 600 and rising, with military crackdowns on protests turning very violent. More importantly, few experts are predicting that an immediate solution will present itself, so the conflict and violence will most likely continue for some time.

What does the US think?

President Obama has condemned the Egyptian violence and has suspended joint military exercises with the Egyptian army. He stopped short, however, of suspending military aid at this point. Egypt is often heralded as a cornerstone of peace in the region, so it is in the American interest to help maintain that peace. The current instability is threatening to completely undo the progress that Egypt made toward democracy in the wake of the Arab Spring.

What could happen next?

Optimistically, democratic peace talks could lead to a referendum in which each party commits to abiding by the will of the people. A democratic system in which the Muslim Brotherhood could again gain power, however, is unlikely since the military has condemned them as a whole. At present, the Egyptian military is using a repression method to completely wipe out Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Such an approach will lead to continued violence and instability for years to come.