NPR Story
10:15 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

Egypt Escalates Crackdown On Muslim Brotherhood

Originally published on Thu July 11, 2013 8:50 am

Prosecutors in Egypt have ordered the arrest of the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, along with nine other leaders.

Egypt’s interim government has insisted that the Muslim Brotherhood incited violence on Monday morning when soldiers and police opened fire and killed over 50 civilians.

The civilians were holding a sit-in in front of a military headquarters where deposed president Mohammed Morsi is believed to be held by the Army, calling for Morsi’s release and reinstatement.

The Muslim Brotherhood maintains that its supporters had been praying when the military opened fire.

The deaths have sharpened divisions in the country and raised fears of civil conflict. With the new arrest orders, the interim government is signalling that it intends to move forward with transition plans.

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Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young.

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

I'm Jeremy Hobson. It's HERE AND NOW. In a few minutes: How much would it cost to make conditions at garment factories in Bangladesh decent for workers?

YOUNG: But first to Egypt, where today prosecutors ordered the arrest of the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, along with nine other Islamist leaders. The Brotherhood backs the deposed president, Mohammed Morsi, who was a member. They've refused to join the country's interim government. Morsi is still being held by the military. His supporters are staging another large protest today outside a Cairo mosque to demand his reinstatement.

And you'll remember that over 50 protestors were killed in Monday's protests. Leila Fadel is NPR's Cairo bureau chief. She joins us now. And Leila, this is also the first day of Ramadan. So what does that mean for the protests, for the mood there in Cairo?

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Well, typically during Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunup to sundown, things slow down. But this year I think we're seeing a flurry of political activity, the interim president that was appointed by the military trying to get his government together, appointing his prime minister, who's trying to put a Cabinet together quickly.

And also during a month that's known for sacrifice, for discipline, for being close to God, with such a religious movement we'll likely see more resolve among these protestors out in support of the ousted president.

YOUNG: Well, there were a lot of Muslim Brotherhood members and Morsi supporters arrested right around the time of the coup. We were told in some ways it was to protect them. What's the impact of the order for this arrest today?

FADEL: The accusations today against Mohamed Badie, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as a few others, were for inciting violence. They're saying that the rhetoric being used by the Muslim leadership is causing instability. But of course there's mass outrage from the Muslim Brotherhood organization who has dealt with oppression under regimes here in Egypt for decades.

So they feel that this is yet another crackdown against them and a democratically elected president that was ousted by the military, of course backed by millions of Egyptians who went to the streets saying they didn't want this president anymore.

YOUNG: Well, and as we've been hearing, we talked about this yesterday, the country is even more divided after that shooting on Monday. We were hearing that people who had supported the president's ouster are now having second thoughts because of the shooting, second thoughts about the military's involvement in their future. These are secularists, perhaps, or liberals who supported the overthrow, now don't.

So what is your sense of what happens going forward? I know you've been asked this, but I think it's such an important question. Is Egypt's very future in danger?

FADEL: I think it's a real concern. I mean right now, after a constitutional declaration that was issued on Monday night that sets out sort of the rules of the game going forward, that sets out the rules of the game going forward, it makes it clear that the military is very much in control of the state, and many people are saying it's back to square one.

I don't think we're seeing a huge amount of the population turn against the military coup that they supported, but we are seeing a hardening of the lines, the people that support the president saying we're being victimized, we're being killed in the streets; and the people that support the military ouster saying let's see where it goes, let's trust this military because it's better than the leadership we saw in the last year.

Now it's unclear where it will go from here with such polarization, which such rhetoric from both sides that's so visceral.

YOUNG: Yeah, and these people probably have a wary eye on the new protests today, given what happened on Monday. But just briefly, you know, Egypt is also in a sort of financial freefall, and we understand that Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, other countries in the region are promising money. Qatar has been giving money to the Morsi government. So just your sense of how this is reverberating in the region.

FADEL: Well, things have really switched around. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were very skeptical of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership. They didn't like it. They don't like the Muslim Brotherhood within their own country. And as soon a Morsi was ousted, we're seeing billions of dollars coming as the lifeline to Egypt.

But we're also seeing money from Kuwait, which actually had an OK relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. And Qatar still tentatively respecting what they call the will of the Egyptian people. These funds, of course, will be welcomed by Egypt, that Egypt whose economy has been faltering now for more than two years.

YOUNG: Which is part of what's bringing some people to the streets. That's NPR Cairo bureau chief Leila Fadel, telling us again that there are going to be huge protests in the street as the government has ordered the arrest of the head of the Muslim Brotherhood there in Cairo. Leila, thanks so much for your input.

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