Connect to share and comment
In a deeply polarized country, the grassroots Tamarod — or 'Rebellion' — campaign has harnessed growing frustration and discontent to unite a fractured opposition.
CAIRO, Egypt — As Ghada Naguib wades through a sea of brimming boxes, she is greeted by a group of friends sifting through mounds of paper. Pegged to the wall behind them is a poster bearing a photo of Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi, a large red X crossing out his face.
“We’ve had enough of Morsi,” Naguib says as she pulls out another stack of papers from a worn plastic bag, each one a signed petition calling for the removal of the president. “We don’t need him to do anything anymore. We just need him to leave.”
What began as a humble campaign of disillusioned young protesters taking to the streets with pen and paper, Tamarod, or ‘rebellion’, now says it has amassed more than 15 million signatures against the president and is leading calls for massive anti-government demonstrations on June 30.
In a deeply polarized country, the grassroots campaign has harnessed growing frustration and discontent to unite a fractured opposition.
“Because security has not returned, because the poor have no place, because I have no dignity in my own country,” the petition reads. “We don’t want you anymore."
The petition’s signatories cite a range of grievances, from Egypt's faltering economy and political paralysis, to fuel shortages, rising food prices and a lack of security. Others like Naguib say the abuse and repression that persisted under Mubarak have continued, making the fight profoundly personal.
“He has done nothing, he’s only helped his own people,” Naguib, who is a member of the Tamarod coordinating committee, said from the downtown Cairo apartment that serves as their headquarters.
Naguib says she was shot in the back while protesting during Egypt’s 18-day uprising in 2011. “We will finish our revolution,” she said.
More from GlobalPost: Egypt: NGO prison sentences send chill through civil society
The government concedes that Egypt’s democratic transition has faced challenges, but also say such obstacles are natural after years of autocratic rule. Morsi was legitimately elected, they say, and those who are unhappy with his rule should use democratic means to bring change.
“It is representative of grievances that still need to be considered,” Gehad El Haddad, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, said of the petition. Morsi is a longtime Brotherhood leader.
“The most logical route is through democratic channels,” El Haddad said. “That is why we have parliamentary elections.”
But Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court dissolved Egypt’s lower house of parliament last June and ruled the upper house invalid last month.
A new law governing elections has yet to be finalized amid a stand-off between Morsi’s government and the judiciary.
Egyptians did democratically elect Morsi last year, but his opponents say he lost his legitimacy through a series of undemocratic moves — the most dramatic of which was the president’s constitutional decree last November.
The Islamist president announced that his edicts were immune from judicial review, a tool he then used to ram through a controversial constitution.
More from GlobalPost: Egyptian Constitution: Morsi gives Egypt an impossible choice
“We voted for him because he promised to fulfill the demands of the revolution and we supported him until he broke all his promises,” said Ahmad Abdallah, a leader of the April 6 youth movement, a group that joined Tamarod. “When he issued the presidential declaration in November and people were killed, he became a dictator.”
But Tamarod, too, faces questions over its legitimacy.
The movement emerged on the scene at a point where most opposition parties were a failure, says Ziad Akl, senior researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
“Tamarod was seen as this non-corrupt movement that had a very valid goal and it was cross-class, cross-ideology,” he said.
Since then, the movement, which will present its petition to the Supreme Constitutional Court on June 30, has also announced plans for a transitional government if Morsi resigns.
A “revolutionary” political figure would be appointed prime minister and a technocrat government established. The head of the Constitutional Court would act as president until fresh elections — supervised by international monitors — are held.
Despite all this, Tamarod’s petition — however strong — holds no legal weight.
“Tamarod is in a very awkward position in that it can’t legally pursue this course of action without some sort of judicial support,” said Tarek Radwan, associate director for research at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. “And the judges haven’t really issued any statement yet in this regard.”
The precarious situation has allowed for remnants of the regime of ousted Presidend Hosni Mubarak to reemerge — including as part of the Tamarod campaign.
Old regime supporters are “not part of the [Tamarod] rebel council, but a lot of the papers signed of course are by the old regime,” Akl said. “How exactly are they related to the revolution? How exactly do you manage this specific front?”
More from GlobalPost: Egypt's ongoing revolution takes violent turn
Akl believes the intersection between the revolutionary camps and the old regime — to which the Brotherhood are hostile — makes confrontations more likely and more dangerous for the Islamists.
“There are going to be clashes everywhere and it’s already started,” he said.