Hosny offers one clue to a question that has baffled many non-Egyptians: How can a country that revolted against an autocratic regime less than three years ago now embrace strong-armed military rule?
A broad swath of Egyptians has supported the July 3 ouster of Morsi and the military crackdown on his allied Muslim Brotherhood movement, which sparked clashes that have killed about 1,000 civilians in 10 days. Much of the public staunchly defends the military’s actions, including a brutal dispersal of two pro-Morsi sit-ins and the sweeping arrests of Brotherhood leaders, including four more Thursday. Cairo was bracing for even more violence, with the Anti-Coup Alliance calling for a “Friday of Martyrs” protest.
The dramatic shift in public opinion was underscored Thursday when former president Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt for three decades with the backing of the military, was freed from prison with little public protest. He was flown by helicopter to a military hospital in Cairo a day after a court ordered his release.
Like many Egyptians, Hosny blames the Brotherhood for the violence that has convulsed his country since the coup. “Most of the people believe the police and military are standing by the people’s side,” he said.
The military has portrayed its takeover as a bold stroke to save the country from terrorism. But the public’s rejection of Morsi is rooted in the wildly high hopes that ordinary Egyptians had for the Arab Spring — and their bitterness at how democracy failed to deliver jobs or social justice.
When Egyptians revolted in 2011 against Mubarak, it reflected their disgust with his government’s corruption, police abuses and inability to provide jobs for the swelling population.
In the lead-up last year to the country’s first free presidential elections, candidates offered not so much policy proposals as visions of a new country.
“Islam is the solution” was the Muslim Brotherhood’s pledge. Working-class Egyptians such as Mohammed Abdul Qadir, 43, took that to heart.
“I only wanted one thing: to be ruled under sharia,” or Islamic law, the cabdriver said. “But this didn’t happen. There was only more injustice.” By “sharia,” Abdul Qadir didn’t mean a ban on alcohol or a requirement that women wear veils. He meant the creation of a broadly just society, the kind promoted in Islamic teachings.
But his life only got worse as the already weak economy sputtered. Tourism and foreign investment dried up amid political uncertainty. There were gasoline shortages. Food prices climbed.