Egypt’s Revolutionaries Reckon With New Allies

The military, and a formerly passive majority. “I trust the couch party.”

KHALED DESOUKI / Getty Images

Fireworks light up the sky as Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians celebrate after Egytptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s speech announcing The Egyptian army toppling Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt’s landmark Tahrir square on July 3, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt.

CAIRO — As millions crowded Tahrir Square, some revolutionary types who had gathered over two years ago to topple the regime of Hosni Mubarak now felt themselves part of a strange and different crowd.

They were again participating in the ouster of another president, but this time he was democratically elected. And this time, instead of facing off against Mubarak’s troops, they were relying upon a military they no longer trusted and on fellow protesters who believed their lives were better in the Mubarak era, or were simply apathetic about politics before President Mohammed Morsi and the Islamists were voted into office. These activists were striking a bargain with people they could not trust in order to rid themselves of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement. To them, it was worth the price if the military intervened, in order to get rid of an Islamic government they viewed as authoritarian despite its democratic birth.

Activist Moheb Asaib Mohammed was one of those who fought to stay in Tahrir Square in the early 2011 demonstrations against Mubarak and now celebrated the announcement of Morsi’s departure.

Mohammed had even voted for Morsi a year ago, but was so horrified by what he saw as the Brotherhood’s power grab, he had joined the street rallies that led to the military dissolving Morsi’s democratically-elected government.

“Morsi was a failure. He wasn’t able to run the country,” Mohammed said. “He didn’t put the killers of the martyrs who died in the revolution on trial.”

Mohammed faulted Morsi for not finding young people jobs, and for not listening to them. “There was no dignity,” said Mohammed who is a laborer.

He hopes with the Brotherhood gone, things will improve. But he swore if the military tried to rule the country again as they did in the months after Mubarak fell, he would come back out to the streets once more. “If they act like they did, we won’t trust them,” he said. Mohammed also hopes the new generation of protesters, with ties to the Mubarak era, called the Couch Party, would prove a positive force in Egypt.

“I trust the Couch Party. They are the Egyptian people, but I will worry if the old regime people are elected,” he said.

Others shared his view. Hussein Mahmoud, a self-styled revolutionary, had camped in Tahrir Square on a small dirt pitch for those who had been jailed by the military during the 16 months they governed Egypt. Mahmoud was in Tahrir this week for a fellow protestor jailed by the army in early 2011. Mahmoud said the army had charged his friend with plotting against the state and continued to hold him until this day. He shook his head in a firm no about ever trusting them. “They should protect us, not rule us,” he said.

Still he was hopeful about the future with the Brotherhood gone. He felt no shame in acknowledging Morsi’s ouster was made possible by Egypt’s silent majority, or Couch Party, who never protested before. He believed the Couch Party could be catalysts for change and would not necessarily lead Egypt into a new softer variation of the secular authoritarianism known under Mubarak. “The Couch Party is the biggest group here…. If they are put on the right track, everything will be ok,” he said. On Wednesday night, Hassan’s wish had come true. He would now see if his gambling on Morsi’s departure would work the way he dreamed, or he would someday come to regret joining his opponents in bringing an elected president down.

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