Protests in Egypt have been going on since November and show no signs of stopping. The current president, Mohamed Morsi, has hundreds of thousands protesting in the same square that sparked the 2011 revolution. To fully understand the current climate, the previous revolution needs to explained. Egypt’s previous president, Hosni Mubarak, ran the country in a continuous state of emergency since the assassination of his predecessor. In this state, the power of the government was absolute with the ability to arrest and censor citizens without probable cause. Mubarak continued to rule unopposed for 30 years until 2011 when the revolt started. Tired of the corrupt government and emboldened by Tunisian’s revolt, the people of Egypt began protesting on Jan 25 2012, ending with the resignation of Mubarak on Feb 11 2012. The country was lead by the military until the new president, Mohamed Morsi, was elected in November 2012.
The current unrest started when Morsi granted himself unlimited powers to protect Egypt. This removed the checks and balance system similar to the US government. Using this newfound power, Morsi started to push an Islamist supported constitution through to replace the discarded constitution of the Mubarak regime. Immediately protest erupted across Egypt, demanding an end to the unlimited powers Morsi gave himself and to diversify the counsel drafting the new constitution. In response to the protest, Morsi removed his power but refrained from altering the counsel. This has become the root of the issue and protests today, with many believing the president’s political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, is trying to push a new constitution which imposes Islam as the state religion.
The main difference I see in the previous revolution to today’s protests is it isn’t one sided. Previously, the entire nation was protesting the Mubarak regime when today this issue has divided the nation. Morsi has the backing of the Muslim population while the opposition consists of Christians and Jews. This has lead to violent conflicts between the pro and anti Morsi parties. Several people have been killed and thousands injured in only two months of protest.
I think the protesters are afraid of losing their rights to this new constitution. Several Egyptians have grown up without the ability to speak their minds without fear of the government. Then after a years of oppression they felt the relief of a new hope of personal freedom only to have the new government threaten it. I don’t think Morsi is a power hungry tyrant, but was too enthusiastic in creating a new government. He needs to understand he now is responsible for the protection of several different people each with their own religion, opinions, and way of life. Even though he came from a Muslim background, he has to put his personal preference aside for the betterment of the country as a whole.
With both sides refusing to back down and Morsi calling the military to help break up protests, this conflict is not showing signs of dissipating. Many nations have warned Morsi that his government was put into power by the very same protests which now threaten to break it apart. If the protests continue to become violent, many foresee a nation in a civil war very similar to Syria. In the end, the main issue of religion and state has become the stress that could rip Egypt apart.