The bloody crackdown in Egypt demands more than condemnatory noises

After a day of appalling violence that left so many dead – the majority unarmed civilians shot down by soldiers – it is difficult not to despair

Share

If the army’s ousting of Egypt’s first elected president was the day that the country’s nascent democracy spluttered, the bloody clearing of Cairo’s protest camps this week was the moment that it died. Yet still the only possible solution is a political one.

The auspices were never good. When the forces of the deep state slunk back out of the shadows to topple Mohamed Morsi last month, the poster child of the Arab Spring took an unmistakable wrong turn. No matter that the Islamist president squandered his brief time in office, doing little to address Egypt’s debilitating economic problems and – worse – sowing division where he should have promoted unity. Mr Morsi was an elected leader, nonetheless; his summary dismissal, even at the bequest of many millions on the streets, made a mockery of democracy.

There was still a shred of hope, though. A swift political settlement was just about possible. Now, however, after a day of appalling violence that left more than 500, perhaps as many as 2,000, dead – the majority unarmed civilians shot down by soldiers – it is difficult not to despair.

Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood is not blameless. Rejecting the (albeit tarnished) political process and stirring up public protest only exacerbated dangerous tensions. But the military’s response was beyond disproportionate and sends the country spiralling dangerously towards civil war.

With the departure of Mohamed ElBaradei – the Nobel laureate stepped down as vice-president citing his inability to “bear responsibility for decisions ... whose repercussions I dread” – the interim government has lost even the veneer of inclusivity. Meanwhile, although Cairo’s camps have been razed, Morsi supporters are as determined as ever. The Muslim Brotherhood is calling for more protests – to “bring down Egypt’s military coup” – and despite its appeal for peaceful means, several hundred Islamists attacked a government building in Giza yesterday.

There are three possibilities as to what happens next. One is repression. Another is war. The third is political settlement. That means all sides around the negotiating table, a swift return to the ballot box, and no cavilling at the outcome. It also means the international community doing more than making condemnatory noises while looking stoutly the other way. Active efforts must be made to broker peace.

The US, in particular, has much to do. The Obama administration made its displeasure felt yesterday by cancelling joint military exercises. Yet Washington still refuses to call a coup a coup, preferring the influence that goes with $1.3bn annual aid to Egypt’s military. It is high time that leverage is put to use. All support should now be withdrawn, pending free elections.

The transition from autocracy to democracy was never going to be easy. With the deep divisions in Egyptian society now sealed by blood, it has become harder still. But the alternatives are so much worse.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker