Former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted by the military in 2013, died following collapsing during a court hearing on June 17. He was 67. Morsi, who belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected president in 2012 in the aftermath of the Tahrir Square protests of 2011. However, a year later, massive protests broke out against the policies of his government. This situation was utilized by the military, which under general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, seized power.
Morsi was imprisoned immediately after the coup and tried on a variety of charges. Prior to his death, he had already been sentenced to 45 years in prison. On the day of his death, he had testified in an espionage case from inside a cage in the courtroom. Throughout his years in detention, Morsi was kept in atrocious conditions, often spending as many as 23 hours a day in solitary confinement. He was given food of very poor quality and he often fainted during court hearings. Media reports say that he was allowed visits from his family only thrice during his nearly six years in jail. Various human rights groups had warned of a grave threat to his life were the conditions of his imprisonment to continue. Groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called for an inquiry into the circumstances that led to his death.
The political career of Morsi from 2012 reflected the fractures and contradictions that eventually led to the betrayal of the promises of the Tahrir Square protests. Newsclick’s Prabir Purkayastha pointed out that the various sections that were part of the Tahrir Square protests and eventually turned against each other made a number of miscalculations that led to the return of the military. “The Muslim Brotherhood emerged the winner in the post-Tahrir Square elections because it was the most organized opposition force in the country. However, they misjudged the mandate of the elections,” Purkayastha said. He pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood pushed too hard for implementing a vision of society based on their ideological framework, leading to a wave of opposition to their government. Massive protests broke out within a year of his taking power. However, certain sections of the then opposition made a major error in collaborating with the military, which was waiting in the wings to return to power, he added. Together, these failures led to the military, under Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, re-establishing its iron hold on the Egyptian state.
Under el-Sisi, the oppressive State has launched a massive crackdown on political opponents, and has been responsible for major human rights violations in the Sinai region. El-Sisi also recently held a referendum which may allow him to stay on as president till 2030. The right to dissent and freedom of expression face unprecedented curbs. Through its close collaboration with the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, el-Sisi’s Egypt has become a key player in a global imperialist alliance whose worst impact is being felt by the people of Palestine and Yemen. In Sudan and Libya too, Egypt’s role has been profoundly against the aspirations of the people.
Thus, Egypt, which was the most visible symbol of a wave of protests that promised to transform the region, has become the bulwark of reactionary politics. Morsi’s tragic death marks the end of a chapter in the still-unfolding Arab Spring but the country has far to go in its fight for a just future.