Tahrir square

By Toby Luckhurst
  • David Gardner explores the rebirth of the security state in Egypt, expressing fears that the west will once again support the governments that foster “Islamist delirium”.
  • James Fontanella-Khan interviews Romanian labour minister Mariana Campeanu, who warns that the exodus of the young and the skilled is beginning to seriously affect the economy. While net migration has balanced, the government is attempting to encourage home young workers with business incentives and mortgage subsidies.
  • Syrian architect Omar Abdulaziz Hallaj and his wife Syndi have opened their Beirut home to Syrian refugees, in an attempt to provide advice on practicalities of life in Lebanon but also to “keep the idea of the country alive”.
  • A Q&A with the filmmakers behind Oscar-nominated documentary “The Square”, chronicling over two years of Egyptian protests in Tahrir Square.
  • Anne Barnard writes in the New York Times that government promises of ceasefires are viewed with suspicion by Syrians, due to the army habit of using ceasefires to establish authority over rebel towns.

 

David Gardner

Army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on an anti-Islamist protester's placard. US president Obama is depicted as a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. Getty

When the army and security forces ignored pleas for restraint from Egypt’s allies in the US and Europe, moving to crush the Muslim Brotherhood protest camps that spread across Cairo after the July 3 coup d’etat that toppled President Mohamed Morsi, they had reason to feel supremely confident.

What General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his colleagues have done is to restore the security state – an action that should not be confused with re-establishing security.

This restoration is edging towards the status quo ante the Tahrir revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011. It started before the coup, with the constitution Morsi and the Brothers railroaded through last December. Most of the controversy excited by this Islamist-tinged charter was caused by the way it ignored liberal, Christian and women’s concerns over fundamental rights and freedoms. Alarmingly little attention was paid to the way the Brotherhood sought to co-opt the military by embedding the army’s privileges and prerogatives even beyond the powers it enjoyed under Mubarak. 

♦ Under Morsi, joblessness in Egypt passed 13 per cent, the budget deficit ballooned and inflation rose beyond eight per cent. The financial woes that were the backdrop to Morsi’s year as president will leave the new government in desperate need of cash.
♦ The Economist argues that Morsi’s ousting should be cause for regret, not celebration.
♦ Wendell Steavenson describes the atmosphere in Tahrir Square over the last few days: “The crowds on the street went wild, taking it as a sign that they had already won. But this was also very clearly a coup.”
♦ The Egyptian military had given Morsi seven days to work out his differences with the opposition. AP examines the week which saw army chief Abdul Fatah al-Sissi demanding that Morsi step down and Morsi replying, “Over my dead body!”
♦ Frank Serpico, the ex-police officer who discovered one of the New York police department’s most infamous corruption scandals, is now battling against a local developer and town officials over the fate of pristine woodland.
♦ NPR reports on the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger, the Irish Godfather of Boston’s crime world. 

Gideon Rachman

Egyptian soldiers stand guard on the streets of Cairo on Thursday (Getty)

If it looks like a military coup and has the effect of a coup – then it probably is a military coup. President Obama’s inability to use the “c” word, in relation to Egypt, is not because he has difficulty grasping what has happened. It is because, as soon as the United States declares that the Egyptian government has been overthrown by a coup, it is legally bound to cut off aid to Egypt.

Lying behind the question of whether to call this a coup lies a deeper western confusion. Western governments like to deal in clear moral categories: freedom-fighters versus dictators, democrats versus autocrats, goodies versus baddies. It makes foreign policy easier to understand, and easier to explain to the folks back home. 

Roula Khalaf

Egyptians in Tahrir Square celebrate the army's 48-hour ultimatum to President Morsi (Getty)

In the surreal world of Egyptian politics, the embattled president, Mohamed Morsi, issued his response to the army’s ultimatum at 2 am on Tuesday morning. You’re too confusing, he told the generals, and why didn’t you consult me before?

The army itself, shortly after telling Mr Morsi that he had 48 hours to fix Egypt’s irreconcilable political differences — a threat that looked very much like a creeping coup –went on to post a clarification. It’s not a coup, said the second military statement, only an attempt to push politicians to reach consensus.

Instead of consensus, though, Egypt’s divided camps were digging in their heels on Tuesday, Tahrir roaring with anti-Morsi crowds and the Muslim Brotherhood staging its own show of support for the president. 

We’ll be keeping an eye out for the US Supreme Court decision on Obamacare today, but these are the reads that caught our eye on the world news desk this morning:

Roula Khalaf

Egyptians protest against the military rule in Cairo's Tahrir square. Getty Images

Egyptians protest against the military rule in Cairo's Tahrir square. Getty Images

Supporters of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood gathered in Tahrir square today for an anti-military protest following the killing of 11 people in a sit-in near the defence ministry.

Of course they were joined by other young revolutionaries, who never miss an opportunity to vent their anger at the ruling military council and clashes ensued. All of Egypt is enraged at the killings of the protesters by shadowy thugs who time and again attack peaceful rallies, but whose identity no one seems able to identify. 

Protesters clash with riot police near Tahrir Square. Photo AFP/Getty

Welcome to our live blog of the turmoil in the Middle East. Written by John Aglionby and Tom Burgis on the news desk in London and with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times are GMT.

  • Where next for Egypt now that the protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square have rejected the ruling military’s offer of an accelerated handover to civilian rule?
  • After three broken promises, Ali Abdullah Saleh, president of Yemen, has finally bowed to mounting pressure and signed a deal to begin the transfer of power
  • A major report on human rights in Bahrain has been published – and is analysed here by a Chatham House expert
  • Syria remains in crisis

18.52 That brings us to the end of our live coverage of the Middle East today. See FT.com through the night for updates from Tahrir Square and analysis of what Saleh’s promise to depart means for Yemen. We’ll leave you with this exclusive analysis on the political implications of today’s report into abuses by Bahrain’s security forces from Jane Kinninmont, senior research fellow in the Middle East and North Africa programme at the Chatham House think-tank (emphasis ours). 

Roula Khalaf

Can the army and the politicians stop a second revolution in Egypt? The images from Tahrir square suggest we are back to February, except this time the protestors’ demand is to get rid of the ruling military council which, despite having the run the country with shocking incompetence this year, has been negotiating a role for itself after it hands over power to civilians.