World

Egypt Begins Dangerous New Phase As Interim Leader Steps In

NPR | July 4, 2013 8:09 p.m.

Contributed By:

Mark Memmott

In Cairo on Thursday, this soldier was among many standing guard at roadblocks as authorities moved to try to prevent violence and as they sought to arrest hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members.

In Cairo on Thursday, this soldier was among many standing guard at roadblocks as authorities moved to try to prevent violence and as they sought to arrest hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members.

Spencer Platt, Getty Images

With President Mohammed Morsi out of sight and reportedly in military custody, Egypt has begun yet another dangerous new phase in its fitful transition to democracy. The nation is under the temporary leadership of interim leader Adly Mansour. He and the military leaders who pushed Morsi from power now face the likelihood that the ousted president’s supporters will — as some promised they would if he was removed from office — fight back.

Mansour, the 67-year-old chief justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court was formally installed in his new role early Thursday. He has been placed in his new post by the country’s military, which on Wednesday removed Morsi from office just one year after he became Egypt’s democratically elected leader. The military says Mansour will serve only until new elections can be held. It has also suspended the nation’s constitution. As we reported Wednesday, President Obama says the U.S. is “deeply concerned” about the Egyptian military’s actions and he called on Egypt’s generals to “move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government.”

The coup came after several days of massive, sometimes violent, protests against Morsi’s government. Millions of Egyptians took to the streets to express their anger over the country’s deep economic problems and what they saw as the ineffectiveness of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood colleagues. It was an ironic fall for the president, who came to power in the wake of equally massive demonstrations in early 2011 that led to the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. As NPR’s Greg Myre writes on the Parallels blog, the Arab Spring has become a roiling Arab Summer.

On Morning Edition, NPR Cairo Bureau Chief Leila Fadel spoke with Heba Morayef, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch.

“Morayef says a coup is a dangerous precedent to set,” Leila reported. “Some Brotherhood supporters have resorted to violence across the country. As have opponents to the Brotherhood. And the country remains dangerously polarized as the political elite on both sides demonize the other, she says. Opponents to the Brotherhood refer to them as terrorists. Men have been dragged by their beards on the side of the road on suspicion of being in the Brotherhood, Morayef says, fearing that now the military is joining in.”

Arrest warrants have been issued for at least 300 Muslim Brotherhood leaders. Also on Morning Edition, NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson said that the Egyptian military “has expressed great concern about keeping the peace and limiting the bloodshed” as Egyptians react to Wednesday’s coup. “The fear is that if they don’t … go after these leaders a resistance or a backlash will be organized.”

But, Soraya added, Muslim Brotherhood members say the hunt for their members is a “return to the emnity of the past,” when there was a crackdown on the Islamist group by the Mubarak regime.

“They are still out there” and taking their concerns to the streets, Soraya said of the Brotherhood’s millions of members. “The question is, will they stay out there in large numbers” as the military clamps down?

We’ll be watching the news from Egypt in coming days. In the meantime, here’s what some other news outlets are saying in their headlines:

— “Military Reasserts Its Allegiance To Its Privileges.” (The New York Times)

— “Despondent Scenes At Pro-Morsi Rally.” (Al-Jazeera)

— “The Cairo Question: ‘Coup’ Or Something Else?” (The Wall Street Journal‘s Washington Wire)

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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