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A Year Later, A Revolution In Egypt Again


It's WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. This has been a momentous week in Egypt. On Monday, the Egyptian army warned the country's first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi, that if he did not resolve differences with the millions in the street protesting his government, he would be removed. On Wednesday, the army made good on that threat. Morsi was arrested and the army installed a judge as interim president. And yesterday, supporters of now-former President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood turned out in force to call for Morsi's return to power.

This morning, Egypt is cleaning up from clashes overnight between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators, clashes that killed at least 30 people. Joining me from Cairo are NPR's Leila Fadel and Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson. I wonder if the two of you could tell us more about what happened overnight. Soraya?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, there were mass clashes that were going on - this divided Egypt that we're seeing really played out on the streets. At the same time, we saw the arrest of Khairat el-Shater, who was actually - or he is - a very senior leader in the Muslim Brotherhood from which, of course, President Morsi hails. Along with that, the new interim president appointed a new intelligence chief and also dissolved the upper house of parliament, which, of course is dominated by Islamists.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Also, if I could just add to that - this is Leila - the Muslim Brotherhood yesterday declared an open sit-in. They said they will not leave the streets until this president comes back. And so it became very clear yesterday that this will not end overnight, that this is something that the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters and the supporters of the president are going to stay in the streets for, and even as their leadership has said sacrifice their lives for.

WERTHEIMER: Now, both of you - you were in different locations throughout the day. Leila, you were with the Morsi supporters, the deposed president, and Soraya, you were with those who supported the military coup. I assume those two gatherings were different.

FADEL: Yes. I was with, as you mentioned, the supporters of the president, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and they said that they really feel that in this case the army, which is supposed to serve all of Egypt, has chosen sides among the people, has chosen the side of those who oppose Morsi. Of course, in that space, nobody mentioned the many missteps that the president took. They just said legitimately the only president of Egypt is the president that was elected fairly and freely and should stay in power.


NELSON: Well, we saw actually Tahrir Square, which, of course, has been the epicenter of these demonstrations and expressions of outrage, was actually at its emptiest. We don't see that many anti-Morsi supporters out there, although those who were there were quite angry and chanting against the Muslim Brotherhood.

WERTHEIMER: Leila, you mentioned the concerns about mistakes that Morsi had made, things that Morsi had done that brought all these people into the street. Could you just give us a quick review of what went wrong for President Morsi?

FADEL: Right. In order to be elected as president, of course, he reached out to a much larger base than just the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood from which he hails. And over the past year, he really stripped off any support outside that core base of Muslim Brotherhood supporters. And he did that by supporting repressive laws that were being discussed to pass. And every time people rejected this type of leadership, the Muslim Brotherhood, this president, they would say, well, he was elected so he's allowed to do this four years, and people became frustrated. And so really it was such a shock on June 30th to see millions of people, actually more people than we saw in January 2011, come down to the streets against him.

WERTHEIMER: Do you have a sense that there were people out there calling for Morsi's ouster who were his supporters originally? Do you think there are many people who changed their minds and turned against him?

FADEL: We did speak to some people who voted for him, who believed in him and then decided, you know, this is not a president they want anymore. This is a president that has really polarized the nation, has not been able to speak beyond his base to all Egyptians. The biggest complaint about the president from people who oppose him now is that he was not the president of all of Egypt. He was only looking out to that small base of the Muslim Brotherhood. And in his final days, that rhetoric that was aimed more at the political Islamists grew. And he spoke at a rally where radical clerics were speaking with sectarian language that were talking about holy war. And that, according to a lot of analysts we've spoken to and a lot of people in the street, really scared Egyptians.

WERTHEIMER: Soraya, let me ask you this. Egypt has an interim president now. He's appointed some people, he's beginning to form a government, parliament has been dissolved. Who's in charge? What comes next? Do you have any idea?

NELSON: Well, at this stage, there's been a promise of a new technocratic government, of early elections and that, you know, there's no date set for any of that. And it's really important to note that the winners of what's been happening the last few days are not necessarily the Egyptian people, certainly not the youth that led to this groundswell that went out and actually were able to topple a sitting president. The winners are, in one sense, the deposed president, who's now being portrayed as a martyr. I mean, he's a winner on one side and the other side is the military, which all their sins of the past - you know, the violence against other protesters in the past - you know, they get a clean slate for that. And so it seems that there's still a long way to go before this democracy is actually going to be a functioning democracy the way we understand it.

WERTHEIMER: That was NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, joined by Leila Fadel from Cairo. Thank you both for your reporting and thank you for this morning.

FADEL: Thank you.

NELSON: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.