Tamarod leaves legacy of regret in Egypt

Tamarod leaves legacy of regret in Egypt
5 min read
28 April, 2015
Two years ago today, Tamarod was founded in Egypt to oppose the presidency of Mohamed Morsi. But the return to power of the army has disappointed many who signed up.
Tamarod called for massive protests against Morsi [Getty]
In November 2012, protesters camped outside the Presidential Palace in Cairo to opposing a constitutional declaration giving Mohamed Morsi sweeping powers. Morsi supporters replied by attacking the sit-in.

Daniel Raymoun, 23, a medical student, went to help the injured in a field hospital. He was beaten with metal poles and sticks and needed 20 stitches in his head and back.

Six months later, the Tamarod movement began to mobilise against Morsi and his backers the Muslim Brotherhood. It aimed to collect at least 15 million signatures against Morsi's rule - and its opposition to his rule played a huge part in the mass protests in June 2013 and subsequent military coup.

Some of his friends expected Daniel to be a strong supporter of the opposition, but he was undecided. "I didn't know what to think, I really didn't. I didn't know if it would even be a good idea to call for early elections. At first it felt small and nothing would happen."

Other activists echo his sentiments. Islam Salah, 26, signed the Tamrod petitionand viewed the movement as an activist collective, supported by leftist revolutionaries, such as the 6 April movement.

"I agreed with the demands that were written, so I signed it," Islam said.

Tamarod's original demands on the petition did not specially include Morsi's removal. Instead it included a 'withdrawal of confidence' in his leadership, early elections and a protest on 30 June 2013, marking a year after Morsi's election.

"I had no idea that this would form a legal or political basis for impeaching the president. We didn't even have a parliament, how could that even happen?" Islam said.

Islam did not join the marches against Morsi, despite protesting in the 2011 revolution, and again during the military transition period.
     I told friends not to go, that Morsi would be replaced with something far worse.
Islam Salah

"I wanted early elections, not for the president to step down in that way... I told friends not to go, that Morsi would be replaced with something far worse. Now every day I feel vindicated," Islam says.

Others were initially more optimistic about the movement. "It reminded me of the Wafd movement", said Hazem Fathi, 28, in reference to early 20th century revolutionaries who demanded independence and a constitutional monarchy. "It felt like a proper grassroots movement... people wanted to voice their opinions, and it helped."

Leila Majed, 25, said Tamarod seemed well meaning but ultimately pointless, and only signed its petition in lieu of a tip for a delivery man.

"I disliked the Muslim Brotherhood... I always disliked them. But it was after the constitutional declaration that I really had enough," she said.

'It was too good to be true'

Many in Egypt became accustomed to violent crackdowns against activists. Therefore, as the movement gained momentum in the run up to June, some felt it was strange that the security forces did little to prevent its protests.

"The Tamarod activists were left to roam freely. They were even collecting signatures in ministry buildings," Hazem says. "At protests police and the army didn't do anything. I knew there was something wrong."

Daniel agrees, saying: "It was too good to be true. It got so big, it went so smoothly, nothing went wrong at the protests. The state was obviously involved somehow."

The organised nature of Tamarod and the state's indifference, or even support, towards the movement, lead some to speculate that the General Intelligence Services were involved.

Reuters reported in 2013 that members of the GIS and the ministry of interior had encouraged Tamarod activists, and backed their founding members.

Additionally, a source told al-Araby al-Jadeed that in areas around Old Cairo, those campaigning for Tamarod were the same as those who supported Ahmed Shafik - an old Mubarak-era general who ran against Morsi in the presidential election.
     Reuters reported in 2013 that members of the GIS and the ministry of interior had encouraged Tamarod activists, and backed their founding members.

This might not be surprising as Tamarod accepted endorcements from Shafik, as well as accepting former members of Mubaruk's party, the National Democratic Party, into the movement.

Last month, a leaked conversation between Sisi's office manager and the secretary of defence appeared to show that the UAE was helping bankroll Tamarod through the Egyptian military.

With or without state and foreign intervention, Tamarod achieved its aims. Millions did sign its petition and millions took to the streets, pushing Morsi into a corner and leading to the military, led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to take over in the July coup, ostensibly with the backing of the people.

But in the aftermath, the movement split into factions who supported Sisi or Hamdeen Sabahy in the post-coup presidential elections.

Hindsight

Two years later, activists who opposed Morsi have mixed feelings about the movement.

Daniel, who was injured in the sit-in opposing Mori, says, "After Morsi was deposed, friends called me saying 'God has given you revenge'. This isn't the kind of revenge I wanted," he said.

"We were very naive. Some of the revolutionary activists who initially supported Tamarod, they're in prison... like Ahmed Douma and Alaa Abd el-Fattah..." Islam says.

However, Hazem feels that there was little that revolutionaries could have done: "We were betrayed by both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood."

Similar sentiments are echoed by Leila: "It is unreasonable to expect the revolutionaries to have the foresight that no one else had... the army has been in power so long, they know the game inside out."

* The names and ages in this article have been changed to protect those interviewed.