On July 3, a military intervention many label a coup ousted Egypt’s first democratically-elected President, Mohamed Morsi, and suspended the constitution Morsi and his Islamist allies had forced through with a hasty referendum this January. Morsi had only been in power for a year: a turbulent twelve months which culminated in millions protesting in opposition to the divisive policies of his government and the organization which dominated it — the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, the Brotherhood and its supporters are themselves back on the streets; dozens have perished in clashes with security forces in the past week. Egypt’s 2011 revolution, which brought down the entrenched authoritarian rule of President Hosni Mubarak, looks like it has been reset, with the military once more calling the shots. An interim technocratic government, led by a chief judge, is pursuing a “roadmap” back to democracy and elections, but the Muslim Brotherhood has so far rejected its proposals. Morsi remains detained in an undisclosed location. The prospect of reconciliation and national unity is far from sight. Karl Vick, TIME’s Jerusalem bureau chief, writes from Cairo in this week’s issue of TIME magazine on what happened and what’s next for the Arab world’s largest nation.
“i think this is the only thing Egyptians can do right now,” says one liberal activist. “Remove regimes.” Will they be satisfied with who or what takes Morsi’s place? The litany of complaints in Tamarod [a grassroots opposition movement]’s petition lies in wait for the new authorities. Unemployment has climbed 50% since before the Arab Spring, hard-currency reserves have halved, and the budget deficit has doubled. Tourism hasn’t fully recovered from the revolution two years ago, and the latest upheaval will spook potential visitors anew.
Rather than yield a new government, the coup could bring back elements of the old, pre–Arab Spring order. In the early actions of the transitional government, it was easy to see echoes of the security state that ruled Egypt for most of the past century. Three TV stations have been shuttered, more than a dozen senior Brotherhood officials have been detained, and the rest are looking over their shoulders. “Let’s be honest,” says Radwa el-Sharkaway, another Tamarod activist. “The army has controlled the country for centuries.”
But while the Egyptian deep state, helmed by the country’s domineering military, seems to have come to the fore once more, the Muslim Brotherhood is not going down without a fight. During the Mubarak years, the organization was banned and endured hideous abuses and crackdowns. It shall persevere now, as well. Vick writes:
The next move—and it is sure to come in the streets—belongs to the Brotherhood. It is unlikely to go gently into the night: it remains the country’s single largest political force, and it has a well-deserved reputation for organizational discipline. It may now be reeling from the shock of losing power, the arrest of top leaders and the killing of supporters, but it will not reel for long. “I believe we will continue as we have continued for 80 years,” says Darrag, the former minister.