One year ago, when I visited Cairo, there were thousands of bearded Islamist salifis gathering (peacefully) in Tahrir Square and a Muslim Brother, Mohamed Morsi, held the presidency after winning a fair election. Posters of Morsi were visible everywhere I went.
What a difference a year makes. This year there are no Islamists to be seen in the square, and the hawkers of tourist googaws are selling tee shirts bearing the face of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the army commander who oversaw the ouster of Morsi. His face adorns posters, and chocolates – and in a photo-shopped pic making the internet rounds- has even been juxtaposed on a pair of men’s briefs.
It’s strange seeing the Sisi tee shirts hanging alongside others adorned with the faces of youths killed in the 2011 Tahrir Square uprising. Those youths died in an effort to oust a previous military-backed regime, that of President Hosni Mubarak, and bring in democratic elections. I’m certain those youths could never have imagined that a general would be hailed as the new national hero, praised for deposing the country’s first elected president. (I’ll write more about why this happened in future blogs and columns).
As if to demonstrate how dramatic is the counter – revolution, one of the key youthful architects of the Tahrir Square revolt, Ahmed Maher, is now in jail, arrested for violating a new anti-protest law that is being used not only to curb demos by Muslim Brotherhood supporters, but to curb the very young rebels who made the revolution.
This was not your every-day coup – there will be new presidential elections next year. But the odds are high that Sisi-mania will convince the general to run – in which case he will likely sweep the polls.