Egypt's Turbulent Year

Dec 22, 2013
Originally published on December 22, 2013 12:33 pm
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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

The charges against ousted president Mohamed Morsi are mounting. This weekend, an Egyptian judge ordered Morsi to stand trial on charges he helped mastermind a major prison break during the revolution that overthrew longtime President Hosni Mubarak. And today, an Egyptian court sentenced three top activists to prison for their role in recent protest, a sign that the military-backed government is consolidating its control over the country.

Our Cairo correspondent Leila Fadel happens to be in Washington, D.C. and she joined us in studio to talk about the latest developments in Egypt.

Hi, nice to see you here.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Nice to see you.

MARTIN: There were such high hopes for Egypt after the revolution that this was finally usher in some kind of democratic system there. After this tumultuous past year, where do things stand now? Do Egyptians still have those hopes?

FADEL: I think there were so many promises made in 2011, after this revolution, that things would get better; there would be social justice; that people would get jobs, be able to feed their families; and none of that has really come true. And so, seeing so much tumult over the last three years, a lot of Egyptians are just ready for a path to stability, rather than democracy. And they're ready to settle into something that is predictable, rather than the violence and protests they've seen over the past three years.

MARTIN: You say they crave something more stable. What does that look like?

FADEL: Well, as we've seen in the past few months, the elected president - which many people had turned against, didn't was leading the country well - was overthrown by the military which has really been the behind-the-scenes leader of Egypt for decades. And people are really ready to cheer the military back into power. They're urging the head of the military to run for president.

And we're seeing a pretty huge crackdown, even worse in some ways - according to human rights groups - than what we saw under Hosni Mubarak - with very little public outcry.

MARTIN: As you mentioned, there has been this organized under Muslim Brotherhood, the organization that backs Mohamed Morsi. But it is broadening, going after other human rights groups. What's the motivation for the extension of that crackdown? And how are those groups responding?

FADEL: Well, I mean the latest incident was a raid on a very prominent human rights group in Egypt. A nine-hour raid, people beaten, no arrest warrants and a very prominent activist detained and still detained now - one of the faces in some ways of the 2011 revolution now in jail. And so, that crackdown has broadened from just Islamists to secular and leftist activists who'd been largely quiet about the larger crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

So now we're seeing a lot more criticism coming from local human rights groups, but still not a huge public outcry against it.

MARTIN: It has been almost three years since the Arab Spring began, starting with that young unemployed man in Tunisia who lit himself on fire in protest. Leila, you have been reporting from several of the countries caught up in this revolution - Egypt, Tunisia, also Libya. What do people on the frontlines of those revolutions, what do they feel they have accomplished at this point?

FADEL: The biggest thing that's expressed to me the most is disappointment. There's a sadness almost. There's an exhaustion of fighting and fighting and seeing very little change. And it's hard to keep fighting when a lot the populations are ready to just settle down, rather than really force change, and suffer through what this change looks like. And when the economies aren't getting better in these countries - I've spoken to people in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, who expressed some regret. Was it worth going to the streets? Was it worth people dying to have chaotic nations where they can't predict what tomorrow will bring?

MARTIN: NPR's Cairo bureau chief Leila Fadel joining us in our studios in Washington. Thanks so much. Leila.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.