Egyptian turmoil renews revolutionary spirit
Arabic media review

Egyptian turmoil renews revolutionary spirit

Columnist warns of a looming military coup

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

A protester, part of the Black Bloc, holds the Egyptian national flag during clashes with riot police near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Khalil Hamra)
A protester, part of the Black Bloc, holds the Egyptian national flag during clashes with riot police near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Khalil Hamra)

Egypt’s political crisis is deepening and violence continues to rage across the country as the opposition’s National Salvation Front has decided to boycott dialogue with the government of Mohammed Morsi, Arabic-language news reports on Tuesday.

“The ‘Tahrir’ front burns, and Morsi engages his allies,” reads the lead headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat, displaying a photo of a policeman wearing a helmet and gas mask, using a baton to beat a protester crawling on the ground on Cairo’s Qasr A-Nil bridge.

Egypt’s upper house of parliament ratified a law allowing military officers to arrest civilians, a move the daily dubs “an indication that the security path has been chosen.” Morsi will also be allowed to call in the military to aid the police in quashing the civil protest at any point, according to the new law.

“The Egyptian government gives the army the authority to arrest civilians,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, displaying young protesters covering their face as police shoot teargas canisters at them.

Typically critical of the Muslim Brotherhood government, A-Sharq Al-Awsat dedicates a separate article to economists’ criticism of the government for its slow reaction to the civil unrest, which they say is dealing a deadly blow to the Egyptian economy.

Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera highlights the divide within the ranks of opposition regarding national dialogue with the government. Ayman Nour, head of a small opposition party, agreed along with 15 other small parties to engage with the government on Monday, but demanded that the government annul the state of emergency declared in Suez canal cities, form a unity government headed by an independent member, and introduce constitutional amendments.

But the main opposition body, the National Salvation Front, headed by Mohammed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa and Hamdin Sabahi, refused to deal with the government unless a unity government was formed, the prosecutor general was dismissed, and President Morsi claimed responsibility for the fatalities, Al-Jazeera reported.

London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi focuses on concern that unrest in Egypt will spread from the Suez region to the rest of Egypt, as protesters broke a government-declared curfew Monday evening and took to the streets.

“Terrifying scenarios await Egypt,” reads the headline of the daily’s editorial, reporting on an opposition statement calling for nationwide demonstrations this Friday. The editor puts the blame for future violence squarely on the National Salvation Front for placing “impossible conditions” on national dialogue.

“The Front’s statement will certainly shut the door before any possible solution for the current crisis,” reads the editorial, claiming that the opposition quite plainly demands that Morsi cede his power.

“Egypt is headed toward a dark future, a catastrophe characterized by civil war. The coming days and weeks may be filled with clashes and bloodshed, though we hope to be proven wrong.”

But Al-Hayat columnist Elias Harfoush disagrees. According to him, the main culprit in Egypt’s crisis is Morsi and his mismanagement of post-revolutionary Egypt.

“If the Egyptian street is divided today to the point of civil war, the primary cause for this is the way in which Egypt was administered following the revolution. The monopolization of decision-making and arrogant conduct have characterized the Muslim Brotherhood since Mohammed Morsi came to power,” writes Harfoush.

Independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm takes the opposition’s side in the conflict. Its headline quotes a government statement before parliament, calling the unrest “a revolution of thugs.”

The daily reports some of the slogans chanted by masked protesters in Cairo, which included “The people want to topple the regime,” and “Anarchy is the solution.”

“The military is on the doorstep,” warns A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist  Ghassan Al-Imam.

“Does the Supreme Council of Armed Forces want to return to power? To return, not to return. How nice it would be to return to power! Will it return through a coup, through agreement with the Salvation Front or with the Brotherhood front?”

“Will America be pleased by a coup in Egypt? Minister Hillary who oversaw the transfer of power in the Arab Maghreb and Egypt to the hands of political Islam and the Brotherhood has left the State Department, perhaps to return to the White House in four years.” 

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