That state of emergency would remain in effect until February 2011, when the autocratic Mubarak fell victim to the spreading Arab Spring.
Egypt’s post-Mubarak period has been tumultuous. A battle for control of the government between Islamists and secularists has raged over the past two years. A 2012 election put the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi into the prime minister’s office. His rule was marked by undemocratic steps such as suspending judicial review of his government’s actions. It ended last month as the Egyptian military, which is aligned with secularists, removed Morsi from power.
That in turn prompted massive protests from the Muslim Brotherhood.
After six weeks, that unrest turned violent Wednesday as Egyptian government forces turned their weapons on pro-Morsi protesters. The result was at least 149 killed in clashes across Egypt.
The mass killings prompted stern reactions across the globe.
“This is a pivotal moment for all Egyptians,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday. “The path toward violence leads only to greater instability, economic disaster and suffering.”
The United States faces a tough decision: (a.) continue supplying Egypt with aid that totals $1.3 billion annually and in the process hope to bend a large Arab nation toward stronger democracy, or (b.) remove or sharply reduce that figure and watch what influence the U.S. possesses evaporate as Egypt descends into more chaos.
A rift within the alignment between the military and the reform-minded interim government may be developing, as well. As he condemned Wednesday’s violence, Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei announced he was stepping down from his position in the government Wednesday.
With the blood flowing in Egyptian streets this week, the government that toppled Morsi has declared a state of emergency, one it says will only last a month. Our best hope today might be that in a month some small piece of resolution will arrive for a nation held down by 30 years of despotic rule and two years of struggling for a more democratic future.