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Updated: Experts reflect on Egypt's turmoil

A cross section of Middle East analysts discuss the implications of the latest wave of violence in Egypt.

Last Modified: 16 Aug 2013 11:21
the latest violence in Egypt
Dozens of people have been killed in a crackdown on demonstrators by security forces [Reuters]

The body count is rising across Egypt. The latest crackdown on demonstrators by the interim government has the potential to ignite a prolonged period of violence in the Arab world's most populous country.

The recent wave of unrest began when the military and social movements ousted Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first elected president. Critics of Morsi and his backers in the Muslim Brotherhood say the former president was acting like a dictator who had lost popular support, and thus he needed to be deposed in order to pave the way for new elections. 

While the causes of Egypt's political and social problems are debatable, there is consensus that the country is facing exceptional chaos and bloodshed. 

To help shed light on the current crisis, Al Jazeera canvassed opinions from several leading Middle East experts to help analyse recent developments. 

 

Mahmood Mamdani
 

 "The debate on coup or revolution is now moot."

Mahmood Mamdani is Professor and Director of Makerere Institute of Social Research in Kampala and Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University, New York City. 

Follow him on Twitter: @mm1124

If the official toll is 500+, common sense would suggest that the real toll is likely to be several times that figure. A South African colleague wrote yesterday recalling the outrage that followed the killing of 69 at Sharpeville in 1960 and 169 at Soweto in 1975. To get some sense of the scale of Wednesday's atrocity, recall that 3,000 died on 9/11 in New York City.

The blood on the streets testifies to the naivete exhibited by the secular coalition of liberals and leftists, and the moral and political responsibility they must bear for this outcome. The crisis of the secular coalition has come sooner than expected. What will this coalition do now? Having joined the Muslim Brotherhood during the assault against the old regime, and then the security forces in the assault on MB, what now? Does ElBaradei's resignation signal the emergence of a liberal-left alternative in Egypt? Will they be able to chart a different path, this time to seek a political rather than a military solution?

How many of the millions who returned to Tahrir Square on June 30, and even more of us who believed we were witnessing another milestone in the march of the democratic revolution in Egypt, are likely to judge the Morsi government less harshly in the coming days? Could it be that of the diverse coalition that toppled the Mubarak regime, the Muslim Brotherhood, as the best organized and most popular political tendency within it, had the greatest chance of holding the coalition together? And how much of what happened over the year that followed is explained by their ineptness and inexperience in governance, how much by their overreach and hegemonic aspirations and how much by the challenge they faced in the aftermath of a political revolution where they controlled the political organs of government, but were at every step checkmated by an old order entrenched in the judicial and security apparatuses and in the economy?

The debate on coup or revolution is now moot. The restoration of the Morsi government is no longer a possibility, if it ever was after June 30. In the weeks and months that follow, new coalitions will have to be forged and new paths charted. Once again, Egypt's future may depend on how much moral courage and political foresight its inexperienced youthful movement and its hitherto spineless secular intelligentsia can muster to face past mistakes and chart a different course of action. 

 

 John L Esposito

 "El Baradei has tarnished his Nobel prize"

 

John L Esposito is a professor at Georgetown University and Founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Follow him on Twitter: @JohnLEsposito

The slaughter of pro-Morsi demonstrators should be seen for what it is, a barbaric bloodbath. General Al Sisi and the Egyptian senior military have now demonstrated to the world the true colours of their coup and Egypt's illegitimate government. Egypt today has become Mubarak redux, the return of a military backed and led authoritarian government with all the brutality of the past. What will Egypt's so-called liberal civilian government leaders say and do? [Former vice president Mohammed] El Ba




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