Egypt sighed a breath of relief Wednesday and erupted in a collective zaghareet, or ululation, after the Egyptian army overthrew its deeply unpopular Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.
After a dramatic few days, millions of protestors in Tahrir Square and at the presidential palace anxiously waited for an announcement from the head of the armed forces, General Abd el Fattah el Sissi. They counted the remaining minutes left of Monday’s 48-hour military ultimatum.
The deadline passed, but a few hours later, General el Sissi, surrounded by a coterie of Egypt’s top political and religious leaders, announced that Morsi “had failed to meet the demands of the Egyptian people.” He terminated Morsi’s presidency and appointed the head of the Supreme constitutional court, Adly al-Mansour as interim head of state.
El Sissi also outlined a “roadmap” for the interim period, which includes suspending the current constitution and amending it. He called for early presidential and parliamentary elections and the creation of a national reconciliation committee that will “include all elements of Egyptian society.” The time frame of this roadmap and whether it would include any Islamist groups or parties remains unclear.
On the streets, the announcement was met with glee.
Twenty-year-old Dina Said told me, “I’m very happy. I didn’t believe it would happen, but after a nightmarish year we are finally rid of Morsi."
“We are all a little anxious of course that there will be a backlash from the Muslim Brotherhood, but the army seems to be in control now and hopefully will continue to be in control.”
Some people I talked to, like 40-year-old shopkeeper, Bahgat Ibrahim, trusted the military entirely. “With great leaders like El Sissi we have nothing to fear," he said. "They will round up the Muslim Brotherhood in no time. And besides, if we see anyone in the street with a beard we will cut them and it off!”
“This is truly a great day in Egypt’s history”
Others expressed trepidation.
Mariam Alaa, 25, said, “I will celebrate that Morsi is gone but I went down in Mohamed Mahmoud and I have seen how the Army deals with us. The Army are the ones who conducted virginity tests done on girls. The army are the ones who let the killings in Maspero happen. We have not forgotten, so we will celebrate from now but I don’t intend to trust. If they do one thing wrong I will continue to revolt.”
Her friend Ibrahim Saleh, 25, shared similar sentiments. “We discovered that in some ways the hell of the army is better than the heaven of the Muslim Brotherhood. But Egypt deserves neither—I am hoping that since Baradei is presiding over this, we will finally get the government we deserve.”
He added, “The army would have never overthrown Morsi had it not been for all these millions of people going out in the street."
He smiled and said, “The people will always have the last word.”
Photos by Justin Wilkes