So much for the Arab Spring. In Cairo, Egyptian history appears to have completed a bloody full circle. First the crowds filled Tahrir Square to demand the end of a military-backed dictatorship. Then, just two years later, the crowds filled Tahrir Square again to demand the restoration of a military-backed dictatorship.
Now, within weeks of the coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohamed Morsi, massacre has become the new normal in Cairo.
In 2011, Egypt seemed to have reached a turning point -- but it ended up turning 360 degrees. We are back to a "temporary" martial law that will probably last for years.
However, in the Middle East as a whole -- and probably in Egypt, too -- the revolutionary story is far from over. In Syria, a civil war rages that is increasingly sectarian in character. In Tunisia, protests against the Islamist government are growing in the wake of yet another assassination of a secularist politician. In Libya, violence between rival militias is on the increase. There, as well as in Iraq, we are seeing car bombs and mass jailbreaks.
Jihadist violence is spreading like an epidemic as far afield as Mali and Niger. Yemen has become so dangerous that two weeks ago Britain and the United States had to evacuate their embassies in the capital, Sana'a.
Only in the wealthy monarchies of the Gulf does an uneasy stability persist. But it depends heavily on the high price of oil, which allows the various royal dynasties to bribe their peoples into docility. Less wealthy monarchs, such as the king of Jordan, fear for their thrones.
The Arab Spring was supposed to usher in a more democratic political order in the Middle East. In the United States, conservatives and liberals alike rejoiced in early 2011 at the prospect of a new Egypt run by cool young Google executives. This was to be a Twitter-feed revolution.
Instead, the immediate beneficiaries were bearded Islamists committed to the imposition of Sharia. One Islamist faction -- the Muslim Brotherhood -- may have bungled its chance to rule in Egypt. But others are still riding high.
The chance for an effective Western intervention to help topple the Syrian dictator has been more or less blown precisely because extreme jihadist groups have taken over the war against President Bashar al-Assad.
Osama bin Laden may be dead, but al-Qaeda is very much alive. It was the interception of a secret message between Ayman al-Zawahiri, its chief, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, leader of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, that earlier this month prompted America to shut down 19 diplomatic posts throughout the region -- a humiliating illustration of weakness by the superpower that once dominated the Middle East.
What has gone wrong?
The protests that were misleadingly labeled "the Arab Spring" exposed multiple conflicts between different and sometimes overlapping groups. At first it was conflicts around economic issues and political freedoms that came to the fore. Youth unemployment, high food prices and rampant corruption: these were the grievances that led to the overthrow of the despots in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. They still matter.
In Cairo, many of the same arguments were used against Morsi as had previously been used against Hosni Mubarak. But we now see just how complex and intricately layered these young societies are. For three other forms of conflict are now clearly visible.
The first revolves around identity: Who are we and how do we organize our society? Here the cleavage is between those who would emphasize an Arab national identity and those who see an Islamic religious identity as more important. This division dates back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Note that even within these groups there are subdivisions. Some pan-Arabists are liberals, others are socialists, and still others are unabashed militarists. Some are in favor of the strict separation of church and state; others would allow religious leaders and institutions some control. The pan-Islamists are united in their endeavor to apply Sharia, but disagree about how soon and how literally that should be done.
The second divide is urban versus rural. People in the region's cities tend to be less religious and more Western-oriented. The country dwellers are more conservative and deeply suspicious of the West. This picture is further complicated by those trapped in a no man's land between the rural and urban areas, in the sprawling shantytowns where millions live in squalor with little prospect of employment, reliant on government-subsidized fuel and bread.
The third cleavage that predates these new troubles is sectarianism, above all the region-wide rivalry between the Sunni and Shi'ite brands of Islam.
Given the breadth and depth of these fissures that run through Middle Eastern society, it is tempting to conclude that democracy is bound to fail there. Sooner or later, the pessimists now argue, the countries of the Arab Spring will revert to the old kind of harsh rule by "strongmen."
To remain in power in these shame-and-honor cultures, as David Pryce-Jones described more than 20 years ago in "The Closed Circle," it seems a leader has to combine most if not all of the following strategies: generating an aura of fear, ruthlessly eliminating rivals, appointing trusted friends to run the army and security services, using foreign alliances to his advantage and -- of course -- placing busts, portraits and statues of himself in every public space. Some observers are already wondering how long it will be before the de facto ruler of Egypt, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, ticks all of these boxes.
Yet I am not quite so pessimistic as to expect a complete restoration of the old order. The Arab Spring may appear to have failed, but in many important respects the Arab world has been changed irrevocably.
First, the institution of tribalism is not as strong and cohesive as it used to be. Individuals within a tribe or clan have developed other loyalties and can defy traditional forms of authority in ways that were unthinkable a generation ago. The combined factors of urbanization, young demographics, displaced peoples and emigration will further erode tribal and clan loyalties.
Second, the appeal of radical Islam is beginning to wane. This trend is paradoxical because Islamists continue to enjoy considerable grassroots loyalty. However, after what people have experienced in countries where Islamists have come to power -- notably in Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran and the Taliban's Afghanistan -- it is no longer self-evident that Sharia is the answer to all the problems of modernity. This is the key to the backlash against the Islamists that we have seen in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere. Islamists thrive in opposition and in chaos but fail miserably in government.
Third, the effects of globalization have changed attitudes towards the West. Thanks to migration and telecommunications, Arabs in particular and Muslims in general are now physically and virtually connected to Europe and the United States as never before. They may not approve of everything they see in the West, but they nevertheless are seeing how Western political institutions of freedom actually work.
Fourth, the emergence of hitherto oppressed interest groups cannot be reversed. Women, religious minorities and even homosexuals remain highly vulnerable in the Middle East and North Africa. But such groups are gaining strength through organization. If you are a woman who has been raped, you are better off going to a women's group than to your local despot. Feminism, in particular, has been one of the surprise winners of the past three years in Egypt.
Finally, the attitudes of Americans and Europeans have changed. In the past, any despot in the region worth his salt understood how to present himself as strategically vital to Western interests. For better or for worse, that game is now almost over. Rulers who cannot credibly claim to have popular legitimacy can no longer count on being propped up by Washington, London or Paris.
Significantly, the restored military regime in Egypt is counting on the Gulf states, not the United States, to bankroll it. Last Thursday, President Obama interrupted his holiday to give a speech canceling joint U.S.-Egyptian military maneuvers. The minority of Americans who still care about the Arab Spring are urging him to go further. But even if he cuts U.S. aid to Egypt, it won't make much difference. The Saudis and Emiratis can more than compensate.
Do all these profound changes mean the Middle East is on the brink of a glorious new era of peace, democracy, freedom and prosperity?
On the contrary. The collision between the region's traditional divisions and these new and disruptive trends will be anything but peaceful. I look ahead with trepidation and pity towards a prolonged period of conflict as revolutionary and religious wars coincide and interact. All we can say with any certainty is that there can be no return to the old days.
This was indeed a turning point -- even if the Arab world has turned in a direction that few Western commentators expected two years ago.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali Founder of AHA Foundation. It works to protect and reinforce the basic rights and freedoms of women and girls.
"Dozens of people were reportedly killed in renewed clashes on Friday as thousands of followers of the embattled Muslim Brotherhood took to the streets of Cairo and other cities, facing police officers authorized to use lethal force if threatened.As the Islamist Brotherhood sought to regain momentum after a crushing crackdown by security forces on Wednesday in which almost 640 people were killed, witnesses spoke of gunfire whistling over a main overpass in Cairo and at a downtown square as clashes erupted and police officers lobbed tear gas canisters. Reports of a rising death toll continued throughout the day, with up to 50 dead, a Reuters report said. About 30 bodies were laid out in a mosque in Ramses Square, which was being used as a makeshift field hospital as the injured were brought in from clashes that included gunfire nearby." - New York Times
Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters
Hassan Ammar/Associated Press
Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuter
Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuter
Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuter
AFP— Getty Images
Hassan Ammar/Associated Press
Bryan Denton for The New York Times
Heavy gunfire rang out Friday throughout Cairo as tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters clashed with vigilante residents in the fiercest street battles to engulf the capital since the country's Arab Spring uprising. At least 37 people were killed in the fighting nationwide, including police officers.
Carrying pistols and assault rifles, residents battled with protesters taking part in what the Brotherhood called the "Day of Rage," ignited by anger at security forces for clearing two sit-in demonstrations Wednesday in clashes that killed more than 600 people.
As military helicopters circled overhead, residents furious with the Brotherhood protesters pelted them with rocks and glass bottles. The two sides also fired on one another, sparking running street battles.
Unlike in past clashes between protesters and police, Friday's clashes took an even darker turn when residents and possibly police in civilian clothing engaged in the violence. Police in uniform were nowhere to be seen as residents fired at one another on a bridge that crosses over Zamalek in Cairo, an upscale island neighborhood where many foreigners and ambassadors reside.
The Brotherhood-led marches in Cairo headed toward Ramses Square, near the country's main train station. The area is also near Tahrir Square, where the army put up barbed wires and tanks as a buffer between the protesters and a small anti-Brotherhood encampment in the square.
At least 12 people were killed in Ramses Square after protesters clashed with residents in the area, security officials said. Associated Press photographers saw many of the dead inside the nearby Al-Fath mosque, which had turned into a field hospital. Some appeared to have been shot in the head and chest during an attack on a police station.
Across the country, at least 29 civilians were killed in the clashes and eight police officers also were killed, security officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
The violence erupted shortly after midday weekly prayers when tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters answered the group's call to protest across Egypt in defiance of a military-imposed state of emergency following the country's bloodshed earlier this week.
Armed civilians manned impromptu checkpoints throughout the capital, banning Brotherhood marches from approaching and frisking anyone wanting to pass through. In one checkpoint, residents barred ambulances and cars carrying wounded from Ramses from passing to reach the hospital.
The scenes highlighted how deep divisions in Egypt have become. At least eight police stations were attacked Friday as well, officials said. Egypt's police force was rocked by the country's 2011 uprising that ousted longtime Presidents Hosni Mubarak from power and has not fully recovered since.
On Thursday, the Interior Ministry said it had authorized the use of deadly force against anyone targeting police and state institutions. But the threat appeared not to intimidate protesters.
Brotherhood protester Tawfik Dessouki said he was ready to fight for "democracy" and against the military's ouster of Morsi.
"I am here for the blood of the people who died. We didn't have a revolution to go back to a police and military state again and to be killed by the state," he said.
Also Friday, security officials said assailants detonated explosives on train tracks between Alexandria and the western Mediterranean Sea province of Marsa Matrouh. There were no injuries and no trains were damaged from the attack, officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, has been in turmoil since Morsi was removed from power by the military on July 3, following days of mass protests against him and his Brotherhood group. But Morsi's supporters have remained defiant, demanding the coup be overturned. The international community has urged both sides in Egypt to show restraint and end the turmoil engulfing the nation.
Wednesday, riot police backed by armored vehicles and bulldozers cleared two sprawling encampments of Morsi supporters, sparking clashes that killed at least 638 people.
The Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, said in a statement Friday that the group is not backing down and "will continue to mobilize people to take to the streets without resorting to violence and without vandalism."
"The struggle to overthrow this illegitimate regime is an obligation, an Islamic, national, moral, and human obligation which we will not steer away from until justice and freedom prevail, and until repression is conquered," the statement said.
The group said in another statement that its protests were peaceful.
The revolutionary and liberal groups that helped topple Morsi have largely stayed away from street rallying in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, state-run and private television stations have been broadcasting footage from Wednesday's violence they say shows armed men firing toward security forces. Graphic videos have emerged online portraying the violence from the protesters' side.
One video, authenticated by The Associated Press based on landmarks and reporting from Wednesday's crackdown, shows armored personnel carriers driving protesters back from an area near the main sit-in as continuous volleys of automatic gunfire ring out.
In the footage, the crowd retreats after throwing stones at the approaching vehicles, leaving several bloodied men motionless on the ground. After a loudspeaker announcement instructs the crowd to evacuate, promising safe passage, a vehicle approaches and the barrel of a weapon emerges from one of its gun ports.
Associated Press writer Mariam Rizk contributed to this report.
On July 3, the Egyptian military forcefully removed the first democratically elected civilian president in Egypt. Mohammed Morsi was removed after a protracted demonstration against his regime by millions of frustrated Egyptians. The Defense Minister, General Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi had warned Morsi of the impending action if he does not find a timely and satisfactory solution to the differences with his opponents. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood rode to power on the back of a popular revolution that overthrew Egypt's long time tyrant, Hosni Mubarak.
Since Morsi and the brotherhood came to power under the Freedom and Justice Party platform, tensions have increased in Egyptian society. There has been increased strife between Christians and Muslims. Christians are terrified and are emigrating in large numbers to the United States and Europe. The plan of the Brotherhood was to drive all Christians out of Egypt as happened in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's overthrow. The economy was in a free fall because foreign investors were scarred to invest and wealthy Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and The United Arab Emirates with held their financial assistance to Egypt. Tourists stayed away because of insecurity and uncertainty. Unemployment was skyrocketing and prices of basic commodities were getting beyond the reach of the average citizen.
Moreover, Morsi was issuing bizarre decrees and gradually concentrating power in his hands, setting the stage for another dictatorship. Nobody knew how governmental decisions were made and transparency was thrown out of the window. The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan Al Banna had articulated a one party theocracy for Egypt, millions of Egyptians were beginning to believe that Morsi and the Brotherhood were slowly dragging them towards Theocratic State. Egypt is an Islamic nation, but Egyptians do not want an Islamic or a theocratic state. In addition, Morsi was trying to drag Egypt into the Syrian quagmire, and the army was very nervous about that. Hence the stage for confrontation was set.
After all is said and done, strategic errors made by Morsi and the Brotherhood led to their down fall. First, as a civilian, Morsi should have avoided an early confrontation with the leadership of the army. The manner in which he removed Marshall Tantawi and the military leadership that handed over power to him did not sit well with the army. He should have left Tantawi as Minister of defense until he consolidates power. This is a consequence of inexperience and proved costly. Secondly, he promised to appoint a Christian as a Vice President but reneged on that promise. That alienated the Christian population and deepened the mistrust between Christians and Muslims. Third, the moderate Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were not comfortable with a radical Brotherhood regime in Egypt and saw it as a threat to their own governments. Their reaction was to with hold economic assistance to Egypt, thereby exacerbating economic difficulties. Fourth, Morsi and the Brotherhood became too comfortable and failed to take a lesson from the past.
In the 1940's, the British prevented the founder of the Brotherhood Hassan AL Banna from taking a seat in parliament after he was elected, and in the 1990's the Algerian army prevented an Islamic party from taking power after it won an election. This action led to a brutal civil war. Fifth, Morsi failed to learn that no far reaching social and political transformation can take place in a any country with the old order still in place. The army is always a representative of the old order. You cannot build a new order on the back of the old order. The old order must be swept away. Allende in Chile and Mossadegh in Iran made the same mistakes and paid the price. Khomeini and the Mullahs in Iran learnt that lesson and are still in power.
Now that the deed has been done, what is next for Egypt?. The army has been careful to project its action as a “corrective action” backed by popular will, not a classic coup. It has quickly assembled a civilian caretaker government under the Presidency of Adly Mansour, a Mubarak era judge. In order to assure Egypt's friends in the United States and Europe, Mansour has appointed Mohammed el Baradei, former Chief of the Atomic Energy Commission as Vice President for foreign affairs. The Egyptian army receives about $1.5 billion from the United States annually and will lose this assistance if Washington sees the military action as a coup.
However, the United States and other European nations are quietly sympathetic to the Egyptian army. The United States is going ahead to supply Egypt with the f-16 jets that were in the pipeline before Morsi's overthrow. Moreover, since Morsi's fall, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have pledged a sum of $12.1 billion dollars to the new regime. This is the money they with held from the Brotherhood regime.
The dust has not yet settled in Egypt. The possibility of civil war in Egypt is real. Brotherhood inspired Muslims are accusing Christians of being behind the overthrow of a Muslim ruler, and are instigating attacks on Christians. Unlike before, Christians have vowed to fight back. The Brotherhood have refused to join the Mansour caretaker government and may likely go underground and start a violent confrontation with the army. They are well organized and well armed. They have turned violent before under Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak and could do it again.
However, one thing is clear-majority of Egyptians are proud to belong to an Islamic nation but do not want a theocratic state. And the Christian minority are glad that attempts by the Brotherhood to Iraqinize them have been prematurely aborted by the army.
*Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the African Caribbean Institute and African Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Fox TV foreign affairs analyst and writes from Nashville, TN.
Was it not two years ago, when the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ revolution took place in Egypt? The long-time brutal and iron-fisted dictator Hosni Mubarak was dethroned and drove out of power. For the first time in the history of Egypt a democratic and free election was held and President Mohammed Morsi was elected by majority votes.
In the so-called revolution in Egypt that ushered in President Morsi, the army played a vital and somewhat constructive role in the ushering of democracy. When the people of Egypt rose up against Mubarak and his henchmen, the Egyptian army took the side of the people that swiftly made the difference and facilitated the removal of Mubarak from power.
Egyptian army has been known for its independence but with birth of democratic dispensation in Egypt the army was expected to succumb to the constitutional authority of presidency and accept the civilian control of the military. But that was not necessary the case, President Morsi has encountered a major problem in reining in the elongated power of the army.
Morsi could not be accused of not trying to tame the army’s adroitness and bravado. He made some changes in the army industrial complex by removing some top army brass and replaced them with those loyal to him. Yet the threat of the army to his ruler ship has never been subsided nor absolutely contained because the root of army domination could not be easily diminished by his limited surgical application. A more strategic planning and application with enhanced skill must be sufficiently applied to transform the army to a loyal institution in democratic arena. The inability to accomplish the task was part of Morsi’s failure and now he is paying for his mistake and incompetence.
The successful removal of the former President Mubarak with the aid of the army may have brought a temporary euphoria and a comfort level with populace. But it opened the door for the army to assume the role as guardian of democracy and this unassigned responsibility may be quite troubling. The army in democracy should not dabble into politics, and should be subject to the constitutional supremacy of civil authority. The function of the army is to defend the country from outside enemies and not to become the kingmaker. This is not how a healthy democracy is supposed to be run.
Most of the problems of President Morsi were self inflicted which was rooted in his paucity of political maturity. In democracy there are always political opponents and minorities, and without doubt that their views and rights must be jealously protected and respected.
But beyond Muslim Brotherhood party, many felted left out and detected the wall of intolerance erected. With pursuit and enhancement of non-secularism by Morsi administration, he invariably becomes more vulnerable because the public perceived his absconding of democratic principle for sectarianism.
Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian defense minister photo: Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Egypt’s army without a doubt was at a logger head with President Morsi, who fails to fully appreciate the threat of the army and the best possible way to neutralize the army’s ambition of being a credible alternative to Muslim Brotherhood Party. Morsi failed to do what was necessary to keep away the army from direct or indirect intervention in the country’s politics.
As a democratic elected politician, President Morsi failed to understand that his greatest power, strength and authority come from the people of Egypt who are the true guardian of the country’s democracy. Instead of working assiduously and diligently to unite the Egyptian people including his opponents and those that did not vote for him. Morsi rather pursued a one-dimensional grab of power, a miscalculation that rather strengthened the hands of the army. Unbeknownst to him, he succeeded in making the army more relevant, even as an alternative in political arena and landscape.
By his blind spot and sloppy leadership he enhanced the prestige of the army and unknowingly establishes the army as the custodian of Egypt’s democracy. The army beat Morsi at the political game of chess. Morsi spoke about ‘legitimacy’ without acknowledging his mandate and the power of the people that legitimacy rests on. Mori‘s political calculus forgone the grassroots (Arab Street) as he became more philosophical instead of being pragmatic.
President Morsi failed because he was so-much in hurry to appease his Muslim brotherhood compatriots at the expense of the rest of his political opponents and populace. As an elected national leader he should have bring everybody to the table including his liberal opponents, minorities and those at peripheral of the society and negotiate a more accommodative political umbrella. Rather to his detriment he miscalculated and snubbed his political opponents, thereby falling into the hands of the more superlative army.
The Egyptian army's strategic ‘political party’ is more accentuated than Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party. The army without doubt is a political rivalry to Muslim Brotherhood. Never let their uniform and mannerism fool anybody, the army is a major stakeholder and the military top brass are not about to trade it for anything or for anybody. The army is clever, if not sophisticated and knows precisely what they want, what to do and how to get there.
President Morsi lopsided mind-set, naivete and ‘Johnny-just-arrive’ syndrome were his weakest link to his methodology of governance. Morsi never understands how to maximize his power and gain control of the situation. Take for instance, when the army gave him the 48 hours ultimatum, he misread the tea leaf and missed the opportunity to rally the public, thereby weakens the grip of the army. But rather he fell into their hands by coming across as dictatorial, stubbornly uncompromising and undemocratic.
Emeka Chiakwelu is an Analyst and Principal policy Strategist at AFRIPOL – Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center.
"Egypt’s military on Wednesday ousted Mohamed Morsi, the nation’s first freely elected president, suspending the Constitution, installing an interim government and insisting it was responding to the millions of Egyptians who had opposed the Islamist agenda of Mr. Morsi and his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood. The military intervention, which Mr. Morsi rejected, marked a tumultuous new phase in the politics of modern Egypt, where Mr. Morsi’s autocratic predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, was overthrown in a 2011 revolution.
The intervention raised questions about whether that revolution would fulfill its promise to build a new democracy at the heart of the Arab world. The defiance of Mr. Morsi and his Brotherhood allies raised the specter of the bloody years of the 1990s when fringe Islamist groups used violence in an effort to overthrow the military government. In an announcement read on state television, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian defense minister, said the military had taken the extraordinary steps not to seize power for itself but to ensure that “confidence and stability are secured for the people.” - New York Times
photos credit: Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
President Barack Obama placed a phone call to the embittered Egyptian President Morsi on Monday to talk on the state of his nation. Egypt is beginning to take the configuration of the so-called Arab spring that swept out dictator Mubarak and ushered in President Morsi. The White House released a statement on the phone call made by President Obama to his Egyptian counterpart.
The White House statement reads:
“President Obama called President Morsy on Monday, July 1, to convey his concerns about recent developments in Egypt. The President told President Morsy that the United States is committed to the democratic process in Egypt and does not support any single party or group. He stressed that democracy is about more than elections; it is also about ensuring that the voices of all Egyptians are heard and represented by their government, including the many Egyptians demonstrating throughout the country. President Obama encouraged President Morsy to take steps to show that he is responsive to their concerns, and underscored that the current crisis can only be resolved through a political process. As he has said since the revolution, President Obama reiterated that only Egyptians can make the decisions that will determine their future.
“President Obama also underscored his deep concern about violence during the demonstrations, especially sexual assaults against female citizens. He reiterated his belief that all Egyptians protesting should express themselves peacefully, and urged President Morsy to make clear to his supporters that all forms of violence are unacceptable. Finally, the President noted that he is committed to the safety of U.S. diplomats and citizens in Egypt and stressed his expectation that the Government of Egypt continue to protect U.S. diplomatic personnel and facilities.”
The brotherhood party of President Morsi were inuedated by political opponents who are fiercely rejecting the conservative, non-secular and religious overtones of his administration. The opponents who were more liberal and secular in their political inclinations and phiolosophy were asking for President Morsi to step down.
Egyptian military industrial complex, headed by independent top military brass have already weighed in the fiasco taking place in the country. The perceived independent Egyptian military issued a 48-hour ultimatum for President Mohammed Morsi and his opponents to smooth out their political differences.
Opponents of President Mohammed Morsi protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, July 2, 2013Ap Photo/Amr Nabil
The 48-hour ultimatum and the subsequent " leaking of the military's so-called political road map appeared aimed at adding pressure on Morsi by showing the public and the international community that the military has a plan that does not involve a coup. With tensions high, at least seven people were killed in three separate clashes between Morsi's supporters and opponents in Cairo, according to hospital and security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The officials did not give more details. The violence raised the overall death toll to 23 since Sunday when a mass protest was held to mark the anniversary of Morsi's inauguration," as reported by Associated Press.
President Morsi on Tuesday in defiance of the military, tweeted on his official Twitter account: "President Mohamed Morsi asserts his grasp on constitutional legitimacy and rejects any attempt to deviate from it, and calls on the armed forces to withdraw their warning and refuses to be dictated to internally or externally."
محمد مرسي يؤكد تمسكه بالشرعية الدستورية ويرفض أي محاولة للخروج عليها ويدعوالقوات المسلحة سحب إنذارها ويرفض أي إملاءات داخليةأوخارجية
Egypt's deputy interior minister says that ousted President Hosni Mubarak has been transferred to a military hospital from his prison cell for the second time in a week following complications from a recent injury.
Mubarak is serving a life term after being sentenced in June for failing to stop the killing of hundreds of protesters during last year's uprising.
Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim said Thursday that the 84-year old Mubarak had been moved to the hospital in Cairo's Maadi suburb after reports showed his condition was deteriorating and he needed more medical attention.
Mubarak was hospitalized last week for x-rays of his head and ribs after he fell in a prison bathroom. His lawyers have asked authorities to return him to the hospital which had better facilities than the prison.
Mostafa Hefny has been trying to get the racial designation since the 1980s. Recently, he even wrote to President Barack Obama for help.
Brown-skinned with curly hair, Hefny, 61, said he is easily identifiable as a black man, but the U.S. government considers him "white."
Born in Egypt, Hefny came to the United States in 1978. He said when he was admitted to the country, he was classified on government papers as a white person.
"The government (interviewer) said, 'You are now white,'" Hefny said.
Hefny said he is a Nubian, an ancient group of Egyptians considered more African than Arab, from the northern part of Sudan and the southern portion of Egypt.
According to Directive 15 for the federal Office of Management and Budget Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity, a white person is defined as "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa or the Middle East."
He said he was persecuted and denied promotions because of his insistence that he is black.
Hefny also said he lost out on a university teaching position in the early 1990s at Wayne State University because it was a position designed for a minority, and he didn't qualify because he is classified as white.
He said he is not trying to capitalize.
He said he just wants to be recognized as a black man.
Since 1997, Hefny, a former educator, has fought to change the racial designation on his government forms.
"As a black man and as an African, I am proud of this heritage," said Hefny. "My classification as a white man takes away my black pride, my black heritage and my strong black identity."
Hefny said he has lost five jobs because of his battle to be classified as black. He is unemployed and gets help from his family.
In 1997, Hefny filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government to be classified as a black man. That case was dismissed.
Hefny has reached out to Obama for help.
"I need your help," Hefny tells Obama in a letter written June 29.
"As you can see in the enclosed photo, I am a black man. My complexion is darker than yours. I was born and raised in Africa (Egypt) and you were not, yet you are classified as Black and I am classified at White."
Hefny has also reached out to the Justice Department and the United Nations.
He has taken his fight online, where an organization, The Association of Black Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Nubian Advocates, he co-founded has posted a petition: www.tinyurl.com/sign4justice. The site had collected 30 signatures as of Monday.
Rev. Michel Louis, 61, a Boston pastor, and Lissa Alphonse, 39, of Everett, Mass., had been abducted, along with their guide, Haytham Ragab, as their tour group was traveling on a church trip to Mount Sinai.
The hostage-taker, an Egyptian Bedouin named Jirmy Abu-Masuh, told the Associated Press that he had handed the three over to security officials near the northern Sinai city of el-Arish on Monday after he was promised that authorities were working on his uncle's release. "We are a people of mercy and they don't have anything to do with this," Abu-Masuh said, referring to the Americans.
Gen. Ahmed Bakr, head of security in North Sinai province, confirmed the release and said the three were now in the protection of security officials in Sinai. In Washington, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell also confirmed their release and thanked Egyptian authorites.
Abu-Masuh had said he would not free the two Americans until his uncle was released from jail. He said his uncle was detained for refusing to pay the police a bribe.
Abu-Masuh also vowed to take more hostages, of different nationalities, if his demands were not met. Egyptian officials said earlier on Monday they would not release the uncle until he completes a 15-day prison sentence for possession of drugs.
The abduction took place along the road linking Cairo to the sixth-century St. Catherine's Monastery, located at the foot of Mount Sinai where the Old Testament says Moses received the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments. The route is a frequent target by Bedouins who abduct tourists to pressure police to meet their demands, usually to release a detained relative they say has been unjustly arrested.
Louis, a Presbyterian pastor, was on the trip with his wife, Fredrick Gladys Louis, who was on the bus with him at the time and remained in Egypt afterward waiting for his release, their son, Rev. John Louis, said. "She witnessed the whole thing, so you can only imagine," he said. "She's a fervent woman of God ... she told us to tell everybody that everything is going to be alright."
The family was concerned that the 61-year-old pastor was unable to take his diabetes medication with him when he got off the bus. His family said he takes natural medication, not insulin. Ragab, 28, told the AP on Friday from the captor's phone that he and the two Americans had been fed a roast lamb and were staying at Abu-Masuh's home in the harsh mountain terrain of central Sinai.
Officials say the captives were held 2 miles from Egypt's border with Israel.
Louis said he had been contacted by Massachusetts senators Scott Brown and John Kerry. Separately, a senior U.S. official said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton brought up the American's case when she met with her Egyptian counterpart in Cairo on Saturday. Another of the pastor's sons, Daniel Louis, said the other kidnapped American, Alphonse, is the mother of two children, a 10-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy.
Friday's abduction was the latest in a series of kidnappings in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula over the past year. Abducted tourists are rarely harmed and usually released within days.
U.S. women call Egypt captors "kind"
The Bedouins of the sparsely populated peninsula have long-running tensions with the government in Cairo and with the security forces in particular. Security officials say some Bedouin are involved in smuggling of drugs and migrants endemic to the peninsula.
The Bedouin, in turn, complain of state discrimination in the development of their region. Bedouin and Egyptian rights groups say the security forces are responsible for many abuses. Police hunting fugitives have staged mass arrests to pressure families to hand over their relatives. They frequently enter homes by force and detain women - particularly provocative acts in conservative Bedouin society.
There are also fears of an Islamic militant presence in the Sinai, where militants carried out a string of suicide bombings against tourist resorts in the mid-2000s. Israel says militants in Sinai are behind cross-border attacks into its territory in recent years.
Abu-Masuh said his uncle had been stopped and harassed on his way to the coastal city of Alexandria last week. When officials saw he was from Sinai, they harassed his uncle even more, Abu-Masuh said. He said his 62-year-old uncle, who raised him after his father died, suffers from back and heart problems as well as diabetes.
Abu-Masuh, of the Tarbeen tribe in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, told the AP that Egypt's Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri called him personally and asked him to release the Americans "who are guests in our country." He said his uncle called him from prison pleading the same and fearing police might arrest his children or wife to pressure Abu-Masuh.