He lived as a hero who defended the noble values of freedom, dignity and justice; he died a hero in order to preserve these values. He did not compromise on his principles, preferring prison to surrender. President Mohamed Morsi paid with his life for his steadfastness and commitment to his legitimacy in the face of the 2013 military coup in Egypt. He could have accepted the takeover and a safe exit to exile in any country open to him. Neither he nor his family would have been harassed, but he didn’t. Instead, he chose to remain and has now paid the ultimate price.
President Morsi did not die on Monday; inside, he probably died in 2013 on the day of the coup; that is when the legitimacy that should have been the political foundation for taking Egypt away from military dictatorship was killed. Morsi’s physical death is the death of a human being, but his metaphorical death was the death of democracy in Egypt; it was the death of the millions of people who chose him as president, who will hand down his story from generation to generation. In killing him, the Egyptian regime has prolonged Morsi’s life.
His legacy is that he will go down in history as the first elected President in the history of Egypt and, indeed, the whole Arab region. It is ironic that he died on the same day that he won the presidential election, 17 June; that day in 2012 was when his victory was announced.
From then on, the Military Council put every obstacle in his way to make his rule a failure. It dissolved the People’s Assembly by virtue of a ruling from the Supreme Constitutional Court, which was one of its tools against the revolution. It issued a constitutional declaration on the eve of the elections that paralysed the future president, making him unable to make any decision without referring back to the Council, which granted itself special powers. It also abolished the committee formed to draft the Constitution.
The doors to the People’s Assembly were closed to Morsi, where he would customarily have taken the presidential oath. As such, he took the oath before the entire nation, not just MPs, in Tahrir Square, where the revolution took place, giving it new momentum. He opened his arms to the people and pointed out that he wasn’t wearing a bulletproof vest.
Then began his invisible struggle against the deep state and the Military Council. It insisted on remaining the de facto ruler of the country, even from behind the scenes with the civilian president being nothing but a front. The real authority was to remain in the Council’s hands. That is why, when President Morsi took office, he immediately annulled the dissolution of the People’s Assembly and called for it to convene. In response, the Military Council used the Supreme Constitutional Court to reject his decision, even though the Court had no jurisdiction in such matters.
The Council wanted to undermine him so that he could not govern effectively, so it also used a pliant media, today’s most dangerous and powerful weapon. All media outlets snubbed the legitimate President of the Arab’s world’s largest nation.
Soon after Morsi took office, supposedly “revolutionary” forces — in fact they were created by the intelligence services — began to call for protests to overthrow him. Then, on 6 August 2012, a tragic and suspicious incident took place in Rafah, in North Sinai, the truth of which has still not been revealed. It involved the killing of 16 soldiers while they broke their Ramadan fast, which outraged the Egyptian people. During the funeral of the martyrs, Prime Minister Dr Hesham Qandil was attacked and President Morsi was taken back to the presidential palace for his own protection. This actually foiled what was believed to be the first coup attempt.
The conflict between the elected civilian president and the Military Council intensified. Less than a week after the Rafah incident, on 12 August, Morsi revoked the constitutional amendment that gave the military wide powers and ordered Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff General Sami Anan to retire. This was a dangerous precedent that no one expected. The Egyptian people rejoiced but, ironically, the move was not welcomed by civil groups, although they had carried effigies of the two men hanging on gallows across Tahrir Square during the period of military rule, and had called for their execution.
A similar thing happened when Morsi dismissed the attorney general and appointed a replacement. This was a popular demand of the revolutionaries but when it was met by the President they changed their minds; the civil groups led by losing presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi rejected his dismissal and went to the attorney general’s office to support him.
All the civil groups then came together in the National Salvation Front to speak out against Morsi’s presidency and the Muslim Brotherhood in general. After a constitutional declaration on 22 November, 2012, the second coup attempt took place with the Ittihadiya Palace incident, when the security forces left their posts and did not protect the presidential palace in Heliopolis, to the extent that a winch was used to try to remove its doors. However, this coup attempt also failed.
We then saw the emergence of the Tamarod Movement, also created by the intelligence services, funded by the UAE and blessed by Saudi Arabia and Israel because they felt the continued rule and success of the Muslim Brotherhood posed an existential threat to their own thrones and governments. It was no surprise to see their interests converge, nor was it surprising for the goals of the civil groups which had called for the end of military rule not long beforehand to converge with the goals of the same military; both wanted to eliminate the Brotherhood and its government. The military used the civil groups as a cover for its military coup, claiming to the world that what took place on 30 June 2013 was a popular revolution.
President Mohamed Morsi was actually ousted on 3 July and put behind bars before being dragged into a series of absurd legal cases intended to insult, humiliate and, metaphorically at least, kill him. He was actually sentenced to death in one of these cases, but the Almighty did not allow them to hang him on the gallows. Instead, he returned to his Creator as he stood tall in court. He will go down in history as a symbol of the fight for freedom, independence and advancement in the Arab world.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.