'A black cloud has passed from over the country'
By Lucy Shafik in Cairo
Special to ASSIST News Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- Egypt has just witnessed a second revolution, but this one is so different from the last one, which toppled long-time President Hosni Mubarak. This uprising has touched the hearts of many, mainly because people had much to lose under this regime.
Egyptian opposition protesters celebrate on July 1, 2013 in Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square after Egypt's armed forces gave President Mohamed Morsi (portrait) 48 hours to meet the demands of the people or it would intervene with a roadmap
The June 30th protests were talked about often and they were planned and expected, what wasn't expected were the numbers that took to the streets which was estimated at some 33 million people.
All over Egypt, masses swarmed the streets, not in just Cairo, but in every city, town, and province in Egypt, which were jam-packed with people demanding the overthrow of Morsi and his oppressive regime.
Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the January 25th (2011) revolution was filled with an unprecedented number of people streaming into the square from every side street. It was the most beautiful and exhilarating sight; I still get goose bumps every time I see the pictures and aerial view of the square. The area around the presidential palace was also full to the brim with people from every walk of life, the elderly, children, families, friends, middle class, upper class, and working class, almost like representatives of every segment of society.
Huge crowds pack Tahrir Square
This revolt meant a lot more to me than the January 25 revolution, mainly because I participated greatly in this one. I went out to the streets armed with my flag and patriotic spirit every day for the three days these protests were taking place. I went to the protests around the presidential palace because that was closer to my house. Me and my family grabbed our flags, and my mom wore a bandanna with the colors of the Egyptian flag, and my dad had a red card, like the ones at soccer games that the referee holds up to players, that said "Erhal," which means "Leave or out!"
We drove to the protests on the first day feeling euphoric, but also cautious, as we did not want too carried away with high expectations, because we knew what the Muslim Brotherhood were like. After spending 80 years out of any kind of power, and always being marginalized, we knew that they would not let go of this coveted position, as heads of state and basically the ones in control of every aspect of Egyptian society.
So as we drove to the protests, we did not have any illusions of how hard this was going to be, even harder than the toppling of Mubarak, which some thought was impossible. Still we wanted to do our part and we were passionate enough to believe that change was possible.
Egyptian military helicopters trailing national flags circled over Tahrir Square during a protest
President Mohamed Morsi had been in office exactly one year, and June 30th (2013) was the anniversary of his one-year rule. He came to power after the 2011 revolution, which ended the reign of a corrupt dictator and was supposed to usher in democracy, freedom, and hope. Although Morsi won through the ballot box, it was by a slight margin and many believed that he only won through bribery, coercion, and false appeals to religion. Since the majority of the Egyptian population is illiterate and poor, they were easily swayed with money and religion. They believed Morsi was God-appointed and would instill Islamic Sharia law into society in a way that was moderate, yet stern.
Anyways, shortly after coming to power, he monopolized on his authority and appointed Muslim Brotherhood members as governors, ministers, as well as members of parliament, and even put forth a constitution that many believe was unconstitutional and was decided upon by one segment of society: the Islamists. The government and leadership were completely non-inclusive.
A defiant Morsi speaking before he was deposed
People came to the conclusion that the Brotherhood would not make true on their promises of inclusiveness, moderate Islam, and overall development and progress of the nation. The economy was faring badly, with constant black-outs -- sometimes for 2-3 hours a day -- frequent fuel shortages, which brought the country to a standstill because of major traffic jams, major inflation, and the stock market was slumping often. It was just a constant series of bad decisions, failed attempts at fixing the economy, and shoving Islam into everything.
Their rhetoric was becoming more and more aggressive as they started mentioning Jihad in the name of Allah by taking up arms and fighting in Syria as well as fighting against unbelievers at home and those who they believed were against the state and their method of their leadership.
All this was like sirens going off in people's minds and many were beginning to feel that this had to end, one way or another. If we stuck to the democratic principles and waited out his presidency for another three years, there wouldn't have been a country to rule anymore. Everything would have gone from bad to worse and the Muslim Brotherhood were going to dig their heels more and more and, perhaps, find more followers to their dark and oppressive ways and it then would have been impossible to get rid of them.
Thousands of Christians have sought religious asylum over the past year and many Egyptians immigrated to the U.S. and also to other European countries, fearing for their future and their families. My family also considered applying for a "green card" - permanent residence -- in the United States after Morsi was elected. We knew no good would come of Morsi's rule, but we felt like God was telling us to stay and intercede for the country.
But as time went by, there were no signs of improvement or that Morsi was becoming moderate in his ways. However we continued to attend church services, at my home church Asr El Dobara, located in Tahrir Square, the heart of the protests. The prayer services were so fiery and expectant, that it was hard not to have faith in this kind of atmosphere. There were times of hopelessness and disappointment, but this was our country and we continued to believe and intercede.
When talk of the June 30th protests started going around and the "Tamarod" or "Rebel" group, which is a group of youth activists who organized a petition and a called for protests, we became hopeful again. I wasn't involved in the 2011 protests, but this time I felt like this was a cause worth fighting for and, even though I'm scared of harassment or sudden violence, I would not let this stop me. So my family and I encouraged each other and when we saw that our friends were also going out, we decided to go to the square. After that first time there was no turning back. You felt it in the street, people were vigorous and determined. I felt the energy and the patriotism in the streets like no other time. It was amazing and my heart was beating fast even as we rode back home at night.
Sometimes, as I walked through the protests with my sister, we would pray short invocations and those moments were so powerful. The protests felt festive at times, as if Morsi had already stepped down, and sometimes a cluster of people would gather and chant, "Erhal!" and some would shoot fireworks into the sky, as military helicopters flew overhead in a gesture of unity and cooperation with the people.
This was the tipping point that fueled the protests and drove people to the streets in even greater numbers as they were convinced that the all-powerful Egyptian military was now on their side.
The military chief general, Abdul Fattah El Sisi, addressing the nation
The military chief general, Abdul Fattah El Sisi, addressed the nation by saying that he will stand by the people, meaning the protesters on the streets. The military gave 48 hours ultimatum for the president to make tangible amendments before intervening in their own way.
Hours before the ultimatum the president came out and gave a forceful and defiant speech against the people using the word "legitimacy" maybe 60 times in his speech. He may have been elected, but if the president fails to fulfill his promises and continues to drive the country downhill, then democracy becomes a hollow word.
After Morsi's speech, the military returned to the spotlight and gave a "final speech" that will forever be in our memories. El Sisi announced "Egypt's army has decided to remove President Mohammed Morsi from power, suspend the constitution and pledged new elections." The crowds on the streets erupted in jubilation. I listened to the speech from the radio of one of the protester's car. There were a dozen of us huddled around the car to hear the news we'd all been waiting for.
My father jumped with joy and ran back and forth amongst the crowds, as people were congratulating each other on accomplishing such a feat. Flags were waved in the air, a group of fireworks lit up the sky, and basically Egypt became one big party. I didn't know that so many people were so against the President, but his policies and incompetence really affected everyone, not just the poor.
An anti-Morsi protester looks on as people celebrate in Tahrir Square after the announcement of the removal from office of Egypt's deposed President Morsi
I am still in shock at what has happened. We all hoped this would occur, but nobody actually thought it would. The Brotherhood has a history of not giving up easily, even if it means fighting till death. We knew the only way this could end with the least bloodshed was if the military intervened and stood on the side of the people. This is exactly what happened, the military could not have been more assertive and clear in their response and their efforts. They quickly moved to depose President Morsi and create a new roadmap for the future, and appointed the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adli Mansour, as the interim president. He would be given the task of "running the country's affairs during the transitional period until the election of a new president," according to Egypt Independent, the country's flagship independent paper.
Although Morsi's supporters are not willing to give up without a fight, and the threat of backlash is likely, our church is reminding us to continue to pray for their salvation and for peace, as we soak in this triumph.
I just hope Western media would stop calling this a "military coup," as it was the will of the people that drove President Morsi out, and the military just aligned its will with the people and achieved the impossible. I believe this new situation in Egypt is for the better and I also believe that God heard the cry of His children as they prayed day and night for His light to pierce this darkness.
It is like a black cloud has passed from over Egypt and we can be full of hope once again. The greater miracle would be that people acknowledge the work of God and turn their hearts to Him. We can start praying for that now!
Still, there are problems in the country, as the pro Morsi supporters are threatening to kill anyone opposed to them and to set Christian homes on fire. Already 23 houses belonging to Copts (Orthodox Egyptian Christians) have burned down in Luxor and they are going on marches all over Egypt at this moment of writing.
So please pray for protection for Christians and also Egyptians who are opposing Morsi, whose lives are in real danger.