Countdown to a coup

Egyptian flags are everywhere today – flying from balconies, fastened to car windows, and dotting the sparse-looking crowds at Tahrir Square, where a makeshift tent city has sprung up. It’s a little after 8:00 am, and in another hour or two the square is going to be packed with thousands of people. People are chanting various protest songs, but they always come back to the simple but effective “Irhal!” or “Leave!” In an ironic turn of events, the sweltering Cairo heat has actually eased up since the political situation intensified, and it’s positively breezy today. We’re all grateful.

I said hello to one of the local shop owners when I stepped out to get the paper earlier, and noticed that he was in the midst of a serious conversation with a handful of neighborhood shabab. At the coffee shop around the corner, a few men in suits had made time on their way to work to smoke a shisha or savor a few sips of coffee. They were the exception, however. Even in sleepy Doqqi, my middle-class neighborhood, people are moving a little bit faster in the streets.

Yesterday, four ministers in Morsi’s cabinet resigned. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr  handed in his papers this morning. Morsi’s former military chief of staff resigned as well, and according to Ahram Online, declared that he stood behind opposition protesters and that the army “would never forsake the Egyptian people.” The broadcaster on the morning news is currently mounting a spirited defense of the army and their long history protecting the Egyptian people, reflecting some Egyptians’ views, but not all. There’s no word yet on what the military road map is going to look like, or even what this will mean, though the armed forces issued another statement yesterday saying that they were not planning a coup.  A spokesperson said (via Facebook) that the army’s doctrine does not permit coups. I suppose the Free Officer’s Movement doesn’t count because….why, again?

The Islamist parties are angry about the army’s proposed intervention, and have started to organize more marches and protests. Muslim Brotherhood supporters gathered outside of Cairo University last night for a protest to express their frustration. A Salafist party has called for early elections in order to “prevent civil war.” 16 people died around Egypt in protest clashes yesterday between different groups of pro/anti Morsi protesters. I also heard that Hasam Abu Ismail, a Salafist politician, has called for a march today not far from our neighborhood. The clock is still ticking – we’ve got less than 30 hours to go until the army’s ultimatum (and/or Morsi?) is khalas (finished).

I just came across this article by Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif in the Guardian, where she sets the current moment in its political context. Happy reading.

photo via Facebook, by Karry Shendy

photo via Facebook, by Karry Shendy

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