Friday, July 12, 2013

Although they pretend to be neutral, the powerful Egyptian Army played a role in planning the ouster of President Morsi

    Friday, July 12, 2013   No comments

On June 30 millions of Egyptians protested against their president, Mohamed Morsi, in the largest demonstrations the country has ever seen. Three days later Egypt’s top general removed Morsi from office, saying the scale of the protests left him no choice.
But some leaders behind these landmark protests say they were in regular contact with the Army, via intermediaries, as they planned the demonstrations—and that it was clear their movement had the Army’s support.

In the days and weeks before the protests, Waleed al-Masry, a central organizer, was in regular contact with a group of retired military officers. These retired officers, Masry says, promised to protect the protesters who turned out on June 30. They said they were reaching out on behalf of the Army’s current commanders. “We didn’t ask them for help. They just offered it,” Masry says. “And we welcomed that.”

Masry was a key figure in Tamarod, or “Rebel,” the youth-led group whose campaign to collect signatures against Morsi snowballed into the protests that sparked his ouster. Tamarod’s leaders say they gathered 22 million signatures in just two months. While that figure is unlikely—and dismissed even by some of the group’s own organizers—signs of Tamarod’s grassroots success abounded as its campaign gained steam.

Teams of volunteers knocked on doors across the country. Many Egyptians downloaded Tamarod’s signature form online and passed it around. One organizer, Maha Saad, recounts working 16-hour days overseeing more than 400 volunteers tasked with entering all the names and ID numbers into a database. “It was crazy, really,” she says.

Even as the signature count grew and the protest plans intensified, however, many organizers knew Morsi would never step down on his own. Some admit that the more realistic aim of the protests was to inspire the military to step in—paving the way, they hope, for a smooth transition to fresh elections.

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