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It's Been 100 Days Since the Fall of Mohammed Morsi

And things in Egypt only seem to be getting worse.

It might feel like only yesterday that the Egyptian military decided to get rid of their Islamist president Morsi and kill well over 1,000 of his supporters in the process, but actually this past Friday marked the 100th day of the country's second revolution. For the record, more people have died and more people have been arrested than during Mubarak's stint after the 2011 revolution. Yet support for the armed forces and their leader (and, consequently, de facto head of state) General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi remains strong. I guess Egypt has rediscovered its taste for strong-arm politics and military rule.


Thankfully, not that many people were murdered over the course of the anniversary weekend. The Islamist Anti-Coup Alliance – which demands Morsi's reinstatement – had initially planned for large-scale demonstrations to converge on Tahrir Square but, according to their spokespeople, the Alliance ended up cancelling them to avoid further bloodshed. Which seems like a wise move on their part considering the security forces gunned down dozens of their comrades last Sunday, October 6th, after the Islamist protesters descended upon the official 40th birthday celebrations of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.

I'm not certain that this abstinence from violence will last: in a statement released to the press the Alliance reserved their right "to protest in all squares including Tahrir", while a spokesperson told me that the recent deaths "only served as more reason for us to continue moving forward on the same path to liberate our country from military rule".

That sentiment is reflected by other backers of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, who are prepared to die for their cause. "The government expects that if they kill and detain protesters, we will be silent and stay in our homes," said 19-year-old Ibrahim Ahmed, a student at the American University in Cairo who has been involved in the anti-coup movement since Morsi's ousting. "But things changed. Oppression only paves the way for more protests and anger – as long as the oppression increases, the protests will never stop."


When it comes to those supporting the government, the rising body count seems to have hardened their belief that Morsi's supporters are treacherous terrorists. Many seem as determined to eradicate the anti-coup movement as the movement is to continue protesting. Ashraf Mohamed Naguib is the US-educated CEO of private sector think tank Global Trade Matters. He describes the Muslim Brotherhood as a "fascist-terrorist organisation" and says he backs any attempt to crack down on its activities: "We are supporting the military, as we are supporting the police, to use not just brute force, but Waco, Texas-style brute force against any terrorist bastards who are going to try to take over this country."

In keeping with its intensely nationalistic brand of rule, the military-backed government is also portraying its opponents as anti-Egyptian. Just before the Yom Kippur anniversary celebrations, authorities warned that any protesters disrupting the festivities would be treated as foreign agents. Sure enough, during last weekend's celebrations in Tahrir, many refused to acknowledge Anti-Coup Alliance supporters as fellow countrymen. "Ninety-five percent of Egyptians will be in squares supporting the army," one attendee said.

Not that any of this interrupted the feeling of revelry in the square. Aircrafts performed regular flyovers to cheers from the assembled crowds, live music was played and families browsed stalls selling posters and lanyards featuring pictures of Sisi alongside masks of his face – all under the surveillance of a strong police and military presence.


However, only a few kilometres away, demonstrators marching under the four-fingered banner of the Anti-Coup Alliance were met on approach routes to Tahrir by cops and soldiers firing tear gas, birdshot and live rounds. At least 51 died. Back in the square, fireworks were thrown and patriotic songs were sung as black smoke rose from parts of downtown Cairo and a procession of ambulances rushed those injured to nearby hospitals.

As part of the xenophobic spirit fostered by authorities, the international press is often portrayed as supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Few now trust it. "Whether it was the BBC or CNN or any of the foreign media outlets, [their reportage since Morsi's ousting] really shed light on their complete failure and lack of professionalism and journalistic integrity by reporting stories which were basically fiction three quarters of the time," says Naguib. But things are infinitely worse for local members of the media who find themselves accused of "biased" reporting. In the past three months, five journalists have died, many more have been injured and scores have been detained.

Still, the military has vowed to continue with its "roadmap" to democracy – a plan that has so far seen the constitution suspended and head of constitutional court Adly Mansour named interim president. Interim Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi has said that any party that supports the roadmap will be included in the country's political process yet, with the exception of the Salafist Nour Party, very few do. So far, the government's stated aim is to hold parliamentary and presidential elections by early 2014 – even though the US recently urged for faster progress.


Consequently, the demand for Sisi to take office himself is growing. Viewed by many as a hero who saved the country from dangerous terrorists, the defence minister's portrait is now visible on posters, billboards and even cakes throughout Egypt. Sisi himself has previously denied he intends to stand for election, but has given cryptic answers to the question in recent interviews with local press.

According to observers, the implications for Egypt's future are grim: "The last three months are a move to something which looks much more like a dictatorship," says Maha Azzam, an associate fellow with the Royal Institute of International Affairs' Middle East and North Africa programme. "We have seen a continuous clampdown on any kind of political protest, on the Muslim Brotherhood, on the right to free assembly, on a free media and on participation in politics on some very basic levels."

Clashes between pro-Morsi protesters and police on October 6th. Photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy.

She adds that with many of the government's opponents powerless to respond politically, more may begin to lose faith in peaceful protest and resort to force. Ahmed shares the same fears. "I'm not so optimistic about the future of Egypt," he says. "We [the anti-coup movement] are getting more divided and protesters may turn more violent as the only response they have left is live ammunition."

Elsewhere, backers of the ousted president Morsi have started targeting Coptic Christians in reprisals. A full-blown insurgency is already raging in the Sinai region, where jihadi militants have killed over 100 security personnel in a series of attacks. The military's response has been brutal.

The same groups are already targeting Cairo too; Islamist militants claimed responsibility for a September assassination attempt on Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim as well as a recent RPG attack on a satellite communications centre in the southern suburb of Maadi. Azzam believes things are likely to escalate: "There will be groups which will commit themselves increasingly to confronting the military through force. If they have the ability [to strike in Cairo and elsewhere], they will do it. It is going to get worse."

The way things are going it seems even the most apolitical Egyptians will suffer. Without a settled government and with security far from guaranteed, the economy will continue to deteriorate. Inflation has already sent food prices soaring, while the Egyptian pound continues to plummet against the dollar. Money pouring in from Gulf States is allowing the government to avoid an immediate crisis for now, but things are a long way from the sustainable development that Egypt had hoped for following Mubarak's toppling.

The 2011 revolution demanded bread, freedom and social justice. If the army fails to provide at least the first, its backing may dwindle, forcing it to re-evaluate its position. For now, though, its support remains deeply entrenched even as its opponents remain as determined as ever and increasingly willing to resort to violence. Egypt is more polarised than perhaps it has ever been before.

Follow John on Twitter: @JM_Beck Appalling Violence Ravaged Cairo Again This Weekend Death, Peace, Power or Jihad: What Is the Future of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood? Is Egypt Doomed To All-Out Civil War?