Atlantic Council Middle East Published Articles

Christians, Mostly, Embracing Sisi

Sisi Demonstration

From my recent article in Egypt Source:

Ultimately, the formation of a new government in Egypt should be about one word: Competency. But the current nature of politics substitutes another word entirely: Sisi. Local analysis revolves around the question of what the development means in terms of the defense minister’s anticipated candidacy for president, and when he will take off his uniform to announce it.

Egyptians have been waiting for some time to know the answer, and Coptic Christians are among the most expectant.

“If Sisi is a candidate I will definitely support him,” said Naguib Abadir, a Coptic founding member of the secular Free Egyptians Party. “Egypt needs a president with charisma and who commands the respect of the people.”

But not all as are enthusiastic:

This endorsement extended to the person of Sisi, celebrated in posters plastered everywhere on Egyptian streets. “They come to the streets and make a festival, carrying Sisi pictures and saying to him, ‘Come and rule Egypt.’” But while Madgy admitted many Coptic civil society leaders will likely vote for Sisi, some in the Maspero Youth Union are offended at the billing of Sisi as a revolutionary candidate. The goals of the revolution – bread, freedom, and social justice – have not yet been achieved, he explained, so how can we celebrate?

And a segment is outright opposed:

Samaan also supported the removal of Morsi, but finds the actions of the military amount to a coup. Sisi is not to be trusted, he believes. The constitution is good, but Samaan questions whether or not it will be applied. The military establishment poised to run the country once again is the same body that served under Mubarak, he said, and that regime was no friend of Copts, nor honored the constitution.

From the conclusion:

But these are worries for another day. Copts, like most Egyptians, long for stability and have placed their hope in the military to see the country through these troubled times. If initial signs are worrisome to those in the West, Egyptians plead for patience. The nation has changed after January 25, they say, and cannot go back to the status quo.

In the meanwhile, yet another post-revolutionary government is asked to prove it. A Sisi presidency will likely settle the question either way, but for the most part, Copts have embraced the optimism.

Please click here to discover the rationale behind each opinion, and read the whole article at Egypt Source.


Friday Prayers for Egypt: Russia, Rebellion, and Relevance

Flag Cross Quran


Egypt’s presidential race is shaping up, and its arms race as well. The relevance of each is to be determined.

Hamdeen Sabbahi, who finished third in the presidential race of 2012, declared his candidacy, claiming to represent both the January 25 and June 30 revolutions. Many then saw him as the best alternative between the old regime and Muslim Brotherhood candidates, but many wonder now if his popularity remains.

God, give him clarity and courage. May his campaign highlight issues between which the people must debate and choose. Strengthen and equip him to bear this challenge.

Abdel Munim Abul Futouh, meanwhile, who finished fourth in the previous race, declined to run. He lamented the unjust state of the nation and said he would not lend credence to a foregone conclusion. He had some support then as a revolutionary, independent Islamist, but some wonder now if he has any support at all.

God, give him wisdom and prudence. May his campaign of a sort rebuke any foul play by the current authorities. Convict him to be upright and influential now, even if he is saving himself for a later challenge.

And subsequently, the Rebellion Campaign, or Tamarod, splits. They brought the possibility of a presidential election to the people through a massive signature campaign and protest to remove Morsi, but with a choice upon them they begin infighting. Some back Sabbahi, others back the yet to declare army general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Millions backed Tamarod eight months ago, but having accomplished their goal, does anyone back them now?

God, give them perspective and chivalry. May their choice reflect the will of the organization, to the degree the organization exists. They have borne their challenge, shall they have another one?

Sisi, however, campaigned in Russia. He returned with the endorsement of the Russian president, but also with strengthened ties and negotiations for arms sales and military cooperation. This is seen as a counterbalance to the longstanding support given by the United States, implicitly protesting the widespread suspicion America is interfering in local developments.

God, give them leverage and diplomacy. May Egypt conduct its foreign policy with independence and find friends with mutual interests for the common good. This challenge is ongoing, and may not end soon.

Nearly everything in Egypt feels weighty, God, but does reality match? Is Sabbahi a real candidate or a willing foil to Sisi? Does Abul Futouh matter? Is Tamarod a discarded shell? Is Russia a replacement for America? Or is the status quo more or less immovable, with developments meant to dodge, distract, and squabble over scraps of relevance?

May it not be so. The heart is divided between selfishness and altruism; politics allows for both and no man is an angel. But may public leaders emerge having been proved as public servants. Satisfy the need for meaning and purify the desire for power.

Above all, God, make Egypt relevant, but only for good. Challenge her, and curb her rebellion. May she find the freedom that comes from doing right.



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Waiting on Sisi

Flag Cross Quran


January 25 has come and gone, giving the now familiar images from all sides. Another massive gathering has celebrated General Sisi, while several smaller gatherings lambaste him. His posters are placed everywhere, and some have now been defaced. A festive, expectant atmosphere presides among his supporters, while arrests and deaths continue among those dedicated against him.

But he has not yet declared for president.

By all estimations he is close. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces declared he had a ‘mandate’ and an ‘obligation’ to run. They yield this to the choice of the people, and the constitution dictates election procedures can begin as early as mid-February. But it also permits a delay until mid-April, so Sisi can afford to take his time.

God, give him wisdom. Only you know if the waiting is due to calculation or hesitancy, but either are possible. Whether shrewdly maximizing popular anticipation or cautiously fretting over popular expectations, Sisi is in need of discernment.

Give him first and foremost a sense of duty and public service. Where ambition exists, may it only be healthy. But help him to see if his candidacy will help or harm the nation.

God, give courage to his rivals, whoever they will be. The prayer above is for them as well, but they are operating from a much less enviable position. They will have to stand against an impassioned tide, subjecting themselves to intense pressure and scrutiny.

Where men of vision and principle exist, have the public test them thoroughly. Ensure that competition is beneficial to Egypt.

God, give understanding to his adversaries. Help them carry on in righteousness and determination, but conscious of the harm they bring into existence. Whether this is their fault or not, have the people and law evaluate their cause. Purify, redeem, and reconcile, while casting any dross asunder.

And God, above all, give patience to the people. Much has been asked of them these past three years, much of their effort has been squandered. At the proper time, have them elect the president of your choice, one who will do right for Egypt.

May their long wait be not in vain.



Repackaging January 25

Sisi for President

General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is an unannounced, unofficial candidate for president, but the announced, but still unofficial campaign for him to run has long been strong. Immediately after deposing President Morsi on July 3 he denied any intention for seeking office, but has since expressed an openness without declaring himself either way, though he dropped strong hints he would run if the constitution was ratified with strong turnout.

It has, and Sisi-mania has persisted, with many politicians offering their unqualified support should he decide to announce his candidacy. There is even a lawsuit filed to compel him to run for president.

The above poster is a new initiative in this direction. It translates:

Complete the good you have done and choose your president

‘The good’ represents the massive demonstrations on June 30 which demanded early elections to remove Morsi as president. June 30 has been billed as a new revolution, but also as a corrective extension of the original January 25 uprising against President Mubarak. To others, June 30 is the counter-revolution, less against Morsi than for the state/regime which had buckled in 2011, but not collapsed.

So within this mix, the translation continues:

The day of the people’s victory and of completing the path

Take to the streets and share in supporting the nomination of

General Sisi

President of the Republic

25 January 2014

It is unknown whether or not General Sisi is behind this effort or if other state forces desire him, or, if it represents simply the will of a great portion of the populace. Almost all observers predict that if Sisi were to run for president he would win in a landslide.

Will January 25, therefore, be repackaged as the launching pad for the next president of Egypt? If so, will the original revolution lose more of its luster among a weary population, or, if not and, will the June 30 extension restore much of what January 25 meant to topple? Mubarak, of course, was a president from the ranks of the military.

January 25 was originally selected as the start-date for the revolution because of its coincidence with the national observance of Police Day. It was a protest against the police state and its brutality, but also against corruption in general throughout the regime.

Incidentally, the Interior Ministry has called on the public to rally in Tahrir on this day – without mentioning Sisi specifically. He has also floated the idea that Police Day be moved to June 30, to coincide with the revolution against President Morsi.

Let us suppose General Sisi removes his uniform, runs for president, and wins his mandate. This may reflect very poorly on Egypt abroad, giving ammunition to those who call what happened on July 3 a coup d’etat, however popular. He has the right to run, of course, but is it wise?

That may all depend on the type of president he will be. Will he restore the Mubarak state and rule similarly with token appreciation for parliamentary politics? Or will he honor the original revolutionary demands and reform both the police and the culture of politics, presiding over a true and ongoing democratic transition? Might he perhaps, with his military background and popular backing, be the only one who can accomplish this?

Doubters say the manner in which he has presided over Egypt since July 3 reflect a very low possibility of the latter. The violent crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood, the controversial protest law, and the media campaign to tarnish original revolutionary icons all suggest resuscitation of the dominant state. Furthermore, electoral flexibility passed by the constitutional assembly to the interim president – viewed in this framework as Sisi’s puppet – allow great maneuverability to shape the coming parliament along conciliatory lines.

But throughout the previous three years there has been a lingering sentiment, now a fully raging fire, that Egypt, especially through the Muslim Brotherhood, has been the victim of a conspiracy. Morsi, it is said, won his victory through fraud and foreign pressure, recalling the Brotherhood monitors who declared his victory long before the official results were counted. Judges who participated in the alleged charade are now being investigated.

Egypt’s judiciary – alternately reviled and respected among the people – will have to judge these matters. Their decision either way will be filtered through the lens of some conspiracy. But it reminds of the question ongoing since revolutionary trials began: Who killed the protestors? Has the judicial system let murders off the hook? Were police shooting in defense of stations attacked throughout the country? Or was there simply a lack of sufficient evidence to rule against anyone?

And though many analysts dismiss these thoughts as the knee-jerk reaction of any autocratic regime that comes under popular pressure, conspiracy theorists have a powerful retort. Look at Syria, Libya, and Iraq before that. Their states and armies are all victims of foreign interference. Shall we allow Egypt to fall next?

Or, through Sisi, is it falling now? Pro-Morsi forces are also calling for mass demonstrations on January 25, at Tahrir Square and throughout Egypt. They are now warning of civil war, even as they mobilize.

The general is at the nexus of many attempts to define January 25 amid ongoing Egyptian turmoil. The success of January 25, 2014 to push Sisi to the presidency, as well as the manner in which he may eventually govern, will define the ultimate packaging of the revolution.


Friday Prayers for Egypt: Arguing the Referendum

Flag Cross Quran


The referendum passed, decisively. Turnout was strong, comparatively. The meaning is debated, heatedly. And here the prayers are needed.

A few dispute the turnout, which was the key indicator. Supporters of Morsi have claimed only about ten percent of the electorate voted, while unofficial figures of both participation and affirmation supersede the results for the 2012 constitution.

Unless massive fraud is demonstrated, the people have ratified Morsi’s removal, the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the constitution itself, and perhaps, the presidential candidacy of General Sisi.

In this choice, God, bless Egypt. Bless her for the virtues displayed, for the wisdom exhibited, and in spite of the manipulations present. Whether this choice honors or dishonors your will, God, bless the nation moving forward.

For there was manipulation, God, and herein lies the arguing. State and media vigorously campaigned for a yes vote. The few campaigning for no were arrested. The boycotting opposition was either in jail or in the streets – and even here there is argument. Are the Brotherhood terrorists in label or in reality? Were their protests disrupted, or were they disruptive?

In these questions, God, bless Egypt. Make clear the status of those accused, that they may be tried and judged, sentenced or acquitted, justly and transparently. Make both their supporters and their condemners simultaneously resolute and compassionate. And protect the safety of the streets, for both traverse and protest. Too much traffic has been halted, far too much blood has been spilt.

But as Egyptians and analysts alike argue over the meaning of the referendum, sift the virtue from the vice like the wheat from the chaff. Do results indicate the sovereignty of the people or the authoritarianism of the state?

In this dichotomy, God, bless Egypt. If a mixed bag, then refine them both. Strengthen and encourage a necessary hard hand in difficult times. But rebuke and hold accountable that which violates the law, certainly, but also your standards of righteousness. In your time, God, unmix this bag that Egypt may move forward in full confidence of its cause.

And if it is not mixed at all, bless Egypt tenfold for the offense to which she is subjected, from whichever faction is in the wrong.

Harness the passion in these arguments, God, and marshal it for Egypt’s good. Then cool these fires, so that differing opinion might mutually benefit, educate, and reform. Give meaning to this struggle, and have the nation emerge clean.

Bless Egypt with her new constitution. May consensus come, and with it peace.



Examining Egypt’s Struggle

Here are some excerpts from three insightful articles about the current state of struggle in Egypt, between forces roundly and mostly accurately described as the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.

First, from The National, a publication of the United Arab Emirates:

While some parts of the Arab world are dividing along sectarian and sometimes ethnic lines, the smouldering unrest in Egypt is entirely ideological. Partisans on both sides view it as an existential struggle to define Egypt’s identity – and all conflicts of this type tend to be bitter and brutal.

The Egyptian government’s narrative since the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi has been that the military intervened, after overwhelming public demand, to stop the misrule of an out of control party and president who faced no other political checks. From the outset, they accused Mr Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood of having deep ties to Salafist-Jihadist extremists in Sinai.

This account has been significantly strengthened by the evidently furious reaction of the Sinai-based extremists to Mr Morsi’s removal, and their reported offer in the days and weeks immediately following that violence would cease if he were restored to office. With both the government and the Muslim Brotherhood raising the stakes, violence has been spreading throughout Egypt.

The narrative of the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, by contrast, suggests all of this is nothing but excuses for a counter-revolutionary crackdown.

It always anticipated that the military and the rest of the Egyptian establishment would never allow an elected Brotherhood presidency and would find some rationalisation to overthrow it.

Everything that has followed has been interpreted through this framework as a campaign to destroy the Brotherhood jail, persecute and kill its members, and blame it for all kinds of things it has nothing to do with. The Brotherhood worldview predicts such a response to any political success, and its political comfort zone is much more attuned to the underground than the open air.

These competing narratives, however, are criticized as ugly and deceptive propaganda by this article in Daily News Egypt:

False narratives continue to play a dangerous role in the turmoil in Egypt. No group knows that better than the Muslim Brotherhood. Unsubstantiated claims of the group’s role in violence in Sinai and other parts of the country, along with rumours surrounding the Brotherhood’s links to foreign and domestic actors have made their way to state institutions and mainstream media, which has largely unabashedly rooted for the government in its ongoing crackdown.

It is sad and unfortunate to see that the Brotherhood has turned to the same tactics, constructing false narratives and facilitating the spread of baseless information for its own gain, often employing smear campaigns that closely resemble those from which they suffer.

The group is no stranger to employing sectarianism through various mediums. Even when Mohamed Morsi was president, party leaders made public statements blaming Christians and the Coptic Church for sabotaging the government while its satellite channel Misr25, which was promptly shut down on 3 July, repeatedly made claims that armed Christians were sparking violent protests.

After a summer of bloody massacres at the hands of security forces, the MB resorted to the same sectarian rhetoric, this time to paint the current conflict as one split along sectarian lines.

The FJP’s newspaper regularly publishes sectarian-driven misinformation, and has resorted to some of the most desperate forms of propaganda. It has done everything from blaming the Church’s alleged coordination with military intelligence and the US government for terrorist attacks in the country to publishing articles quoting a fake Pope Tawadros II Twitter account declared that Egypt is a Coptic state.

Following the Brotherhood’s defeat in the Doctors Syndicate elections, the FJP’s paper once again blamed the Church for playing a role.

Christians serve very useful for the Brotherhood’s narrative. In the group’s eyes, the fact that most Christians supported Morsi’s ouster is a convenient way to show that there is an ongoing “war against Islam.”

Needless to say the Muslim Brotherhood’s bigotry does not serve as justification to indiscriminately detain its supporters, respond to its demonstrations with disproportional force, violate a myriad of human rights standards, or even call it a terrorist organisation.

However it demonstrates that even when it suffers from the consequences of mass misinformation, the Muslim Brotherhood and FJP are willing to play a part in the game of false narratives, even if it means fomenting hatred and consequently jeopardizing the safety of other Egyptians.

Meanwhile, blogger Salama Moussa declares a pox on both their houses, and recalls a historical period where this pox decimated both:

The post-1967 years are often described as years of defeat and breakdown. There was that. The daily bread was often corrupted with saw dust. Staples were hard to come by. Oranges, for example, once plentiful, were in short supply, as they were used to pay the Soviet Union for weapons. The country suffered the effects of Israeli raids and occasional forays. But the years had a certain luminosity, as Said noted. Something felt very different in Egypt. There was an air of anticipation and possibilities. Economic growth, for the first time in several years, picked up. Students, some as young as 8 or 9, could demonstrate and even criticize the government openly. Al Azhar admitted women to its schools for the first time, and many came wearing short skirts. There was attention to merit; the commander of a major army was a Copt, for example. Government contracts were bid out fairly. Even the notorious Cairo traffic flowed smoothly, aided by newly constructed tunnels and bridges. How do we square these undeniable feelings and observations with the reality of defeat and the ever-present anxiety of  failure?

Egypt between the wars, 1967 to 1973, was free of two influences that haunted it for nearly two decades prior to 1967. Nasser smashed the Muslim Brotherhood to bits. Israel smashed the army. Free from both the Brotherhood and the army, Egyptians glimpsed a vision of Egypt unchained by these two authoritarian and hectoring groups.  After 1973 things changed rapidly, and not for the better. Sadat empowered the Brotherhood, initially on university campuses to counter the liberals and the left, but ultimately throughout society, and the army had its honor restored, although the best and most successful of its generals were booted out. Six days of war were followed by six years of hope and forty years of despair.

The fading year of 2013 has been one of despair in Egypt. Every week brought fresh horrors and searing images of pain. Who can forget the Port Said deaths, the lynching of Shi’a citizens, the attack on St Mark’s Cathedral, the horror of death at Rab’a, and the daily demonstrations  often accompanied by injuries and deaths. The polarized country is left feeling that it must choose between one of two tormentors. That would be a false feeling. There is luminosity in Egypt, which only a third way will uncover, and chart a path forward unchained by the forces that gave the land forty years of despair.

Feel free to read these articles in their entirety, and hold on tightly.


Our Little Ones Watch a Protest

Rabaa Child
From a protest elsewhere in Maadi

The other day Emma’s best friend, Karoleen, and her younger brother, Boula, came over to play at our home following church. As the kids were gathered around the table working on crafts, I heard the familiar sounds of a protest approaching. A fair number have passed near the house in recent months, although they usually go down the main street perpendicular to ours. Since we live on the ground floor, we usually don’t get a good look despite the noise, but this time they turned and came in full view.

We had been looking for an opportunity to film a protest for a recent video we made about the changes in our neighborhood since we returned from a summer in America. So I dropped the construction paper I was cutting up for one of my daughters, grabbed the camera and ran to our play room, which is a glass-enclosed porch. This gave me the best view I could get of the marchers.

I opened the window and screen, just enough to stick the camera out, but I still felt conspicuous. I didn’t really want to attract any attention from the protesters, but I was willing to risk a bit for a decent line of sight. As they marched, I noticed that some of them looked at our house, but not, as best I could tell, in my direction.

But it was then I heard the shouts and screams from my own kids and their friends in the other room, as they watched the protest go by from our living room windows. That’s why they were looking our way.

Two weeks earlier a protest had gone past Karoleen’s house, about ten streets away from our home, while Emma and Hannah were playing there. Her mom told me afterward that it made Emma concerned, even for us in case the protest came towards our home. But Karoleen’s family lives on the 7th floor of her apartment building, far above the action.

So as I was filming, I was simultaneously hoping the kids weren’t too afraid now that they were outside our window. As it turns out I had nothing to worry about. The kids loved it.

They noticed the bright yellow hand signs, though they didn’t know what they meant. They especially took interest in the kids who were marching along in the protest. There were balloons and chanting, which sounded more like cheering to them. In this particular march, there was nothing to be afraid of. It was a friendly, jovial atmosphere.

When I returned to the table the kids talked excitedly about what they had seen. The planned craft was abandoned as they used the construction paper to make protest banners. Theirs, however, bore the name ‘Sisi’ as opposed to ‘Morsi’, in favor of the current military leader who many see as a hero. They teased each other about being ‘for Morsi’ as they bantered around the table. I didn’t realize what fun it would be for them to have political discussions, though this was not the first time our children had taken sides.

In the end, I got the video we had been looking for, and the kids received some unexpected entertainment. We appreciated the peacefulness of the protest, and wound up happy they turned down our street.

It wasn’t until later we were less pleased, noticing the graffiti they had sprayed on our walls. ‘Sisi is a killer,’ they wrote, and, ‘Against Oppression.’ The latter is a message we won’t mind our children seeing every day, but the first one is not so nice. Of course, neither was the explanation we had to give about the yellow signs, commemorating the hundreds of pro-Morsi protestors who were killed when their campsite was cleared.

Our kids, of course, pay little attention to the graffiti. It will be the image of the protest that will stay in their mind, which we invite you to share in also.

'Sisi is a Killer'
‘Sisi is a Killer’
'Against Oppression'
‘Against Oppression’

Friday Prayers for Egypt: Trial, Satire

Flag Cross Quran


Egypt’s tests continue. Popular talk show satirist Bassem Youssef returned to the air after a long absence and subsequently lost a lot of his popularity. Praised and hated for poking fun at President Morsi and fellow Islamists, he turned his attention to the adoration mania surrounding military leader General Sisi.

Not only did many complain, lawsuits are threatened.

Meanwhile, this week a more critical lawsuit begins. Deposed President Morsi stands trial on charges of espionage and inciting violence. Widespread protests are expected, as unlike the trial of Mubarak, Morsi maintains a significant social base. How the trial is handled may have much to say about the reality of the democratic transition.

God, help Egypt to pass these tests.

Youssef is pioneering, bringing the celebrated Egyptian humor to public expression, challenging the ingrained taboos on insulting authority. His popularity and international profile, perhaps, has kept him safe so far. Give him wisdom, God. Does he drag Egypt forward, or backwards?

He exposes hypocrisy and doublespeak, God, and this is deeply needed in Egypt, as everywhere. But he also undermines respect for authority, and this is deeply dangerous in Egypt, as everywhere.

But what if the authority does not deserve respect, having engaged in hypocrisy and doublespeak? This question, perhaps, is on trial with the president.

Validate or convict him, God, according to the truth. Just as important, may this truth be transparent. Give courage to the judge to fear you alone. May he stand strong, should pressure come from above or below. May he rule rightly.

But for those below, hold fast the discipline of their protest. Keep Morsi’s supporters peaceful; protect them from any external breach of the peace.

God, guide Egypt. Refine her culture, refine her politics, refine her dispensing of justice. In all her trials may she prove righteous.

Protect her from being an object of satire.



Surveying Foreign Christian Residents in Egypt on the Interpretation of Political Events

St. John's Church Maadi

In Egypt’s current political struggle both sides are using the media to highlight their interpretation of events. State media is accused of turning the nation against the democratically elected president and his backers in the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, anti-Islamists target Western media in particular of having a bias toward the Brotherhood, against the military, and neglect the popular role in Morsi’s overthrow.

This survey was designed to test one overlapping segment within this struggle to establish a media narrative: foreign Christian residents.

Two assumptions were made of this community. First, they would be sympathetic to local Coptic opinion, which is strongly anti-Islamist. Second, they would be consumers of Western media and generally trust their journalistic professionalism.

Thirty-three individuals were surveyed, including both leaders and laity of the Catholic and Protestant foreign communities of Egypt. They were asked fifteen questions concerning recent political events beginning with the election of Mohamed Morsi as president. Each question was provided various options, reflecting the opinions and conspiracies of both camps.

Participants were allowed to choose more than one answer, if multiple interpretations were possible. They were asked only to choose according to their leanings and perceptions, not according to an elusive certainty or proof. Not all participants answered each question. In the results which follow, this explains why some percentages are provided with the qualifier ‘among those responding’.

Here are the questions as they were posed to participants:

1.      Did Mohamed Morsi legitimately win the presidential election?
2.      Were Egypt’s political problems caused by:
The desire of the Muslim Brotherhood to dominate
The deliberate non-cooperation of opposition parties
Normal competition after a revolution
3.      Were Egypt’s economic problems caused by:
Morsi’s mismanagement
State sabotage of gas and supplies
Continuing deterioration since the revolution
4.      Did Western powers support Morsi because:
He was the legitimately elected president
They desired the Muslim Brotherhood to replace Mubarak
They desired Islamist rule to weaken Egypt
They desired to discredit Islamism by letting it rule temporarily
5.      Did Morsi and the Brotherhood desire:
To turn Egypt into an Islamic state
To recreate the Mubarak regime
To shepherd in a civil democracy
6.      Was the Rebellion (tamarrud) Campaign:
A grass-roots movement expressing popular rejection
Aided by the military/state/businessmen
A conspiracy to end the Morsi presidency early
7.      Should the military have:
Intervened to depose Morsi as actually happened
Waited longer to see how things would develop
Not intervened at all
8.      Was the military action a coup d’etat?
9.      Was the removal of Morsi:
Mostly positive for Egypt
Mostly negative for Egypt
Both positive and negative in different ways
Necessary for Egypt
10. Should the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest site:
Have been dispersed
Have been relocated to another area
Have been left to protest indefinitely
11. Why did so many people die:
Because of deliberate excess force used by the security services
Because of poor training in crowd control
Because of pro-Morsi armed resistance
12. Were the widespread attacks on Christians and their churches:
Orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood
A spontaneous reaction by pro-Morsi supporters
The action of criminals exploiting the situation
A conspiracy by the state to tarnish the Islamists
13. Should the Muslim Brotherhood:
Be labeled as a terrorist organization, banned, and prosecuted
Be invited into national reconciliation
Be allowed to participate in the new democratic roadmap
Be forbidden from politics but allowed a social role
14. Does the military desire:
To rule directly (perhaps through a retired general)
To have influence and guardianship from behind the scenes
To maintain its economic privileges
To secure a true and open democratic transition
To destroy the Muslim Brotherhood
To prevent Islamist rule in general
15. Will the coming months/years in Egypt witness:
The development of an emerging democracy
The return of an autocratic state
New economic prosperity
Continued economic deterioration
A reversal back to Islamist rule (democratic or otherwise)
Low-level, but violent Islamic insurgency
War (either civil or regional)


Each possibility was given a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ choice to indicate the perception of the participant.

Here are the key findings:

Did Mohamed Morsi legitimately win the presidential election?

  • 52% said yes, 48% said no, roughly mirroring his percentage of winning

Egypt’s political problems were caused by:

  • 97% of all surveyed believed it was due to the MB’s desire to dominate
  • 45% also blamed deliberate non-cooperation on the part of the opposition
  • 36% attributed it to normal competition after a revolution

Egypt’s economic problems were caused by:

  • 82% blamed Morsi’s mismanagement
  • 42% also blamed a state policy of sabotage
  • 82% believed the poor economy following the revolution played a role

Western powers supported Morsi because:

  • 73% believed it was because they recognized him as the legitimately elected leader
  • 24% believed they desired the MB to continue Mubarak’s policies, with 9% support for other conspiracy theories

The political desire of the Muslim Brotherhood was:

  • 100% to turn Egypt into an Islamic state
  • 0% to turn Egypt into a civil democracy

The Tamarud Campaign was:

  • 82% believed it to be a grass roots campaign
  • But 67% believed it also to be sponsored by the army, state, or businessmen
  • Even so, respondents divided evenly if it was a conspiracy to remove Morsi from power, though only 30% of everyone surveyed indicated this

On military intervention to depose Morsi:

  • 70% agree with their decision to do so, as opposed to waiting longer or doing nothing
  • But 47% call it a coup anyway, while 53% believe it does not deserve that label
  • 93% of those responding believe this action was mostly positive for Egypt
  • 75% find that it was also somewhat negative
  • 85% believed it was necessary

On dispersing the pro-Morsi sit-in:

  • 79% agreed with the decision to do so
  • 88% believe that many people died due to the MB’s decision to resist with arms
  • 45% also believed the security forces deliberately used excess force
  • 48% believed poor training on the part of the security forces contributed

On the subsequent attacks on churches:

  • 76% believe these were orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood
  • 58% believe it was a spontaneous action by Morsi supporters
  • 48% also thought criminal elements were involved
  • 9% believe it was at least also a state conspiracy to make Islamists look bad

The Muslim Brotherhood should be:

  • 42% believed it should be labeled a terrorist organization and banned
  • Only 27% opposed this designation
  • Responders were roughly divided between inviting them to national reconciliation and allowing them political participation in the new elections, with slightly more positive response

The military desires:

  • Of those responding, 59% did not believe the military wants to rule directly
  • But 73% believe they want to maintain significant influence behind the scenes, and 52% to maintain their economic interests (0% opposition to this idea)
  • Of responders, 60% believe the military wants to conduct an open democratic transition, but 40% do not
  • 48% believe they want to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood, and 61% believe they want to prevent Islamist rule in general

The future holds:

  • 48% of all and 73% of responders are confident a real democracy will begin to emerge
  • At the same time, of those responding, half fear the return of another autocratic system
  • 55% believe the economy will continue to deteriorate, with only 27% predicting new prosperity
  • Only 3% predict a return to Islamist rule, but 79% predict a continued low-level Islamist insurgency
  • 9% predict war in Egypt’s near-term future

In quick summary, therefore, this sample of foreign Christian residents of Egypt indicates the community largely accepts the anti-Islamist narrative concerning the Muslim Brotherhood, while at the same time displaying significant, but not universal, distrust about the role and intentions of the military and state.

Determining whether their perceptions are correct or incorrect was not the goal of this survey. Rather, results indicate the following possibilities:

  • Foreign Christian residents are disproportionately influenced by local anti-Islamist sentiment or their own anti-Islamist inclinations
  • Western media has not exhibited sufficient pro-Islamist bias to sway their interpretation of events, but has contributed to a distrust of local actors
  • As residents, these foreign Christians are well placed to interpret local events.

Other interpretations are also possible, including combinations of these three.

Western media is understood to be professional in its coverage, though subject to the ability to find suitable local spokesmen to convey perspectives. Most actors in Egypt are polarized and subject to their own biases.

Egyptian state media, however professional, is understood to be the voice of the government, and independent media has been drawn into the local dispute. Pro-Islamist media has largely been shut down.

In wading between the two, one further assumption is necessary concerning foreign Christian residents: They will represent the truth as they perceive it. The value of this survey consists therein.


The Man who Overthrew a President

From Ahram Online, perhaps the making of a hero, but the portrait of the man who designed the Rebel Campaign:

Far from being overawed, Badr was soon arguing with General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi about the military’s roadmap for a political transition, and rejecting his suggestion that Morsi should call a referendum on his continued rule.

Millions of people were demonstrating for the recall of the president, not for a referendum, the activist told Sisi.

“I tell you, sir, you may be the general commander of the Egyptian army but the Egyptian people are your supreme commander, and they are immediately ordering you to side with their will and call an early presidential election,” he said.

The general surrendered. A bunch of kids in T-shirts had changed the course of the Arab world’s most populous nation by mobilising mass protests against the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, then threatening to turn on anyone who resists their demands.

“We own the streets because we stand with the people and the will of the people, and we will always do so,” Badr said.

Like many activists of the Facebook generation, he cut his political teeth in the uprising that toppled veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. He started working as a journalist and voted for Morsi a year ago but became disillusioned.

He told the generals that if they opted for a half-way solution, they would be lost. If they stuck to the referendum idea, he and his movement would walk out.

“I don’t have a blank cheque from the people,” he told Sisi. “People signed Tamarud’s petition for an early presidential election so I can’t go out and tell them anything else.

“If you are worried about the Brotherhood’s reaction, they will also refuse a referendum, so in that case you will lose both sides. Win the Egyptian people!”

A senior military source confirmed that Sisi dropped the idea of a referendum in deference to Tamarud’s argument.

Fascinating article, which includes speculation that the Rebel Campaign was eventually infiltrated by state security and old regime supporters.

But the Rebel Campaign did what many liberal politicians would or could not – work the street. The transition now is in the hands of politicians, and they will do well to remember where their authority comes from.