Mohamed Morsi Was Deposed in a Popular Revolution, Not a "Coup"


The speed with which events are developing in Egypt can very well be described as surreal. Not long after Tuesday's military-imposed deadline for former President Mohamed Morsi to resign, all government institutions and Muslim Brotherhood-sponsored media outlets were shut down. As of Sunday night, Morsi supporters continued to hold demonstrations throughout the country, and clashes between supporters and military personnel killed dozens and left many more injured. Most mainstream media outlets – from CNN, to the BBC, to Al Jazeera – have described Morsi's ouster as a military coup. Without a doubt, if the military hadn't moved as quickly as it did, Morsi would likely still be in office. But would the military have removed Morsi from office anyway? Certainly not. Protesters pushed the military to act. The military was simply the agent that carried out the will of the people. It would be ignorant to simply call what happened a military coup without giving further context.

American media outlets have argued that such a removal is illegal, unconstitutional, and undemocratic. Before making such claims, one needs to look at why the opposition turned up in the tens of millions this past week. In protesters' view, Morsi betrayed the very ideals that put him in power. Immediately before the June 30 protests, his administration was set to order the arrest of a number of liberal journalists and media personalities, and had already arrested notable opposition activists including Ahmed Douma, who was held without charges for several months, and satirist Bassem Youssef, who was charged with " ... insulting Islam, mocking prayers, and 'belittling' Morsi in the eyes of the world and his own people." Jailed activists continue to be tortured in prison. In one of the most notable cases, activist Mohammed El-Gendy was tortured to death while in prison. Meanwhile, Morsi attempted to strengthen his power by granting himself immunity from the country's supreme court, rendering him unaccountable to government institutions. Perhaps most absurdly, he appointed a member of Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya – the group responsible for perpetrating the infamous Luxor terrorist attack that killed 62 people in 1997 and a United States-designated terrorist group – as the mayor of Luxor. Because of these and many other grievances, Morsi was no longer a democratically elected leader. In the eyes of many Egyptians, he had become a dictator who served the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, not the Egyptian people. After enduring immense sacrifice during the initial January 2011 uprising, followed by a year and a half of repressive rule from the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, many Egyptians felt the ideals of the revolution were being crushed, and saw June 30 as their opportunity to salvage their chance at development and fair governance.

It is true that Morsi was brought to power through free and fair elections. But again, we have to look at the context. He won by a very narrow margin during the runoff elections, and for many voters, it was a matter of choosing the lesser evil. For Egyptians with bitter memories of Hosni Mubarak's presidency, selecting Ahmed Shafiq, Morsi's opponent and Mubarak's appointee, was out of the question. Morsi earned many of his votes not because he was seen as favorable, but because he was seen as less repressive than Shafiq. Voters simply chose the candidate whom they believed would do less damage.

Whether this uprising is indeed a revolution remains to be seen. What is undoubtedly true is that, even though it required military assistance, Morsi's ouster was fundamentally made possible by the millions of Egyptians who saw the ideals of the revolution being trampled upon in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood's interests. American media outlets have, sadly, overlooked the many violations perpetrated by Morsi's administration, and the immense frustration they caused throughout Egypt. Before calling what happened a coup, don't look to the media, but to the people.