Return to Transcripts main page


Mohammed Morsy Removed From Power; Protests Rage On In Egypt

Aired July 3, 2013 - 17:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Mohammed Morsy is no longer president of Egypt, although he was the first democratically elected leader. What we're looking now at our screen is of two pictures. One is the live feed from Tahrir Square, showing the anti- Morsy demonstrations, which have been there for days now and which eventually succeeded in forcing him out.

But on the other side of the screen, we're watching a tape of the pro-Morsy demonstrations in another part of Cairo. The reason it's taped is because the live feed has been pulled down. And we don't know why. And we're going to find out why.

But this is the situation right now. The military, the Egyptian military ousted Morsy several hours ago, with the top army commander declaring on state television that Morsy had, quote, "failed to meet the demands of the Egyptian people."

General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced several steps for the immediate future of the new Egypt. They are suspending and rewriting the constitution; there will be new parliamentary and presidential elections to be held at a later but still undetermined date; and he announced the appointment of an interim head of state. His name is Adly Mansour (ph). He's head of the country's Supreme Constitutional Court and we're told he'll be sworn in on Thursday.

He could serve for 9-12 months in an interim fashion according to a former military official who told us that.

Now Mohammed Morsy's supporters are calling this a full military coup. President Obama has monitored events in Egypt from the West Wing together with his national security team.

As for President Morsy, we don't know his current whereabouts; but his office responded to the new developments with a series of tweets, urging Egyptians to remain peaceful but also to uphold the law and the constitution and not to accept what he called a coup that turns Egypt backwards.

Now of course the anti-Morsy demonstrations are not calling this a coup. All their leaders are going overboard to tell us, how can you call this a coup? This is simply the will of millions of people being implemented.

So now we turn to Mohammed Tawfik. He is Egypt's ambassador to the United States. He was appointed by President Morsy and as of this evening, he's serving a whole new administration.

Thank you for joining me by phone from Washington, D.C., Ambassador Tawfik. Welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So Ambassador, has your country just undergone a coup d'etat?

TAWFIK: Absolutely not. The Egyptian people have made their voices heard. Tens of millions of Egyptians went to the streets and the military stepped in in order to preserve the country's integrity and the military have not put themselves in a position of running the country. And we know, in the past, when the military were actually running the country, they ceded power voluntarily.

So basically what we are seeing is a continuation of the Egyptian revolution.

AMANPOUR: If I'm not mistaken, sir, they didn't cede power voluntarily; in fact, President Morsy put them back into their barracks and that was met by huge demonstrations of popular support amongst the people.

The question, I suppose, is what do you expect the reaction from the United States? You are Egypt's ambassador to Washington. What do you expect the reaction to be from the U.S., which is a democracy and had hailed the first democratic elections in Egypt?

TAWFIK: Before answer that, I want to go back to what you said about the military were forced out of power. That's not true. The military organized elections. And then they accepted the results of the election and they voluntarily (inaudible).

Regarding your question about the relations between the United States and Egypt, these are relations, historical, longstanding relations between two nations. They're based on common interests and certainly most people believe in democracy and human rights.

So they're also based on common ideals.


TAWFIK: What I expect from the United States government is to maintain the relation. And I'm confident that on the side of the Egypt we will be doing the same.

AMANPOUR: Can you tell me as far as you know -- and I'm sure you know that obviously the President of the United States called President Morsy, now former President Morsy, earlier this week. And we understand that the U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel yesterday called General al-Sisi, called his Egyptian counterpart.

What would have been the substance of those talks?

TAWFIK: Well, I'm not in a position --


AMANPOUR: No, but you can tell us kind of what the talks --

TAWFIK: Let me tell you just basically many of the discussions that have been taking place between both countries has been in relation to the importance of having an inclusive form of government in Egypt.

Unfortunately, Dr. Morsy failed at this objective miserably. And the result was that the Egyptian people decided that enough was enough. I wish -- I mean, what we had wished in the past and what I'm confident we will be able to achieve in the future is a democracy in which everybody feels that they belong. That's (inaudible) everybody's point of view, that is owned by all the different sectors of the Egyptian people.


TAWFIK: What we need is a more inclusive approach to government in Egypt.

AMANPOUR: What do you think will be the time period of this interim leadership?

TAWFIK: Well, I think -- I think basically we have learned a lot from the experience of the past and we will be trying to move ahead as quickly as possible. There are areas which can move faster than others. We will wait and see.

The important thing, I think, and what we need to underline is having an inclusive approach, all different points of view in Egypt have to be taken into account, all different sectors of society have to feel that they own the country, they own the government, they own the process and that is the only way to move forward.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador, as the war of words is likely to continue over whether this was a full-scale coup, was it a soft coup, was it a coup at all, you know that American law has certain stipulations regarding aid and certain conditions for that. Obviously, it's in the jurisdiction of the United States and Congress to deal with it as they see fit.

But are you afraid that the billions of dollars of aid that Egypt does get and desperately needs is in jeopardy?

TAWFIK: As I said before, this is -- this is not a coup. I don't think any reasonable person would consider this to be a coup.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador, I may have lost you, but thank you very much indeed for joining me.

And it was good to get your insight.

The latest crisis in Egypt as we've been saying began with a petition of over 20 million signatures that did spark these massive rallies which have called for the end of the Morsy presidency. The protest movement calls itself Tamarod, which is The Rebellion. And right now, a leader of that movement is joining me from Cairo. He's Ahmed el Hawary.

Welcome back again to the program. What is your reaction today? We spoke yesterday about what may or may not happen. You were clear that the opposition was in no mood to negotiate or compromise with President Morsy.

Happy now? Is this a victory for you?

AHMED EL HAWARY, TAMAROD: Well, it's a glorious day for Egyptians. It's a glorious day for the struggle. I think what we're seeing now is again Egyptians making history. We -- the Egyptian people has taken their fate again in their own hands after we were fighting for a whole year against a new journey that was trying to install itself and fasten itself to our lives and intervene with our future and block our way to democracy. It's a very glorious day and I feel that anyone trying to label this as a coup would be greatly and gravely mistaken. This is a popular uprising against a tyrannical presidency and basically -- he was a democratically elected president. He should have recognized that the people were fed up with him and they're calling for an early election. Is a democratic tool.

Any -- there's a lot of history. History teaches that there was a lot of true elected presidents that recognized that the people needed early elections. And they resigned and there were early elections. You've got Germany; you've got Israel even. A lot of -- a lot of people recognize when they're doing extremely bad in office and that you're jeopardizing the sovereignty and you're jeopardizing the future of the people, that they have to step down.

But this is a president that has no regard that had no regard for Egyptian peers, for Egyptian hopes, for the Egyptians in the streets suffering of his policies, all he cared for was installing his brotherhood into power, was installing his agenda into power.

And --


EL HAWARY: -- as much as possible to eliminate -- yes?

AMANPOUR: I hear you loud and clear. I just want to know how long you think this interim situation is going to last and were you confident when you heard the announcement by General al-Sisi this evening of the steps that are being put in place and of the timeline?

EL HAWARY: Yesterday I told you about the road map that the Egyptian people has convened around and they have proposed. Today we heard the military actually declaring the same road map and aligning itself with the same demands of the people, with the same vision and the same road map that the people have set forth and have actually presented President Morsy before and tell him this is what we want and this is how it's done. And he did not recognize the calls of the people.

Now we see the military as an institution of this country, aligning itself with the people. How long should it take? We have proposed from six to eight months. And I think that would be fair enough, that from six to eight months, we're going to have an early election for the presidency. And we're going to have a new reelected president.

I think now this -- there's a clear message that however they -- however the situation are, the people are vigilant for their freedom, they're vigilant for their democracy. If you're democratically elected by still you lost the faith of the people and the people does not -- they have any kind of faith in you again, you have to step down democratically.

What we have now is a president that risked civil war, that was actually yesterday enticing his supporters to a violence against the civilians and the civil --


AMANPOUR: Come on, Ahmed --

EL HAWARY: -- had shootings yesterday.

AMANPOUR: -- (inaudible) --

EL HAWARY: -- rampage with guns because of that calling of that president.

AMANPOUR: -- OK. I think that, you know, saying that he was inciting violence is going one step too far, but beyond that, what I'd like to know is who is the leader now of your movement? Who is going to take you forward? What does the opposition movement look like now?

EL HAWARY: OK. You have to understand, first of all, we have the Tamarod campaign and the founders of Tamarod campaign who was present today in the meeting with the military and the civil bloc. And we -- and they have called two weeks ago for a unified front of all the revolutionary leaders, which we called the June 30th front. And that was their way to unify us from all different factions, from all different political groups.

And on the senior level on that -- the senior political personas that we have in Egypt, we have the NSF, who has convened and have unanimously presented its chief negotiator and chief representative, which is Mohamed ElBaradei. So we have now a total unity between the whole of the civil bloc, between the whole of the opposition, behind Tamarod and behind Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei. This is a united people of Egypt. Mohammed Morsy has actually succeeded in uniting the people after two years that we were totally against each other and political turmoil all over hammered Morsy with his bad management, with his risking all the lives of Egyptians, brought all Egyptians back together to be facing again their future hand in hand. This is not a divided country anymore. This is a unified country. We have a really, really minority of people that think that resorting back to violence is a lawful thing --

AMANPOUR: (Inaudible) --

EL HAWARY: -- Islamist militants that has bin Laden T-shirts, rising against the millions of civilians and the millions of a civil bloc who are peacefully marching because they want to restore a president that only held contempt to any Egyptian culture and to any Egyptian symbols. We --

AMANPOUR: Ahmed, thank you --

EL HAWARY: -- restoration of the revolution. This is the restoration of the Egyptian identity.

AMANPOUR: Ahmed, thank you very much, from the Tamarod movement.

And now I want to turn to Abdul Mawgoud Dardery. He's a member of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, which is the movement, of course, that carried Mohammed Morsy to the presidential palace.

And he joins me now by phone from Luxor.

Thank you again for joining me.

What is your reaction to what you just heard from a member of Tamarod, who said Egypt is not divided; we're all united now and this is the route forward?

ABDUL MAWGOUD DARDERY, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: That is very much ridiculous. The country is divided; we continue to be divided. This is a coup d'etat. It's against democracy. It is against human rights. Look at the first thing, one minute after the military declaration. All TV channels that supports democracy were shut off. This is the beginning of a long list of monopoly, of corruption, of police state. People are talking now about other people are being arrested. We're going back to Mubarak days. I mean, this is the counterrevolution that is bringing the old regime, the old regime is still intact and that it is bringing it back.

President Morsy is still the legitimate president in all the country and we will never recognize any military coup d'etat. Egyptians are willing to give their life peacefully for bringing back democracy to the Egyptian people. We paid a heavy price for democracy to come and it will have to continue. It is sad that some Egyptians are carrying on their shoulders police officers who used to torture them and put them in -- it is just a sad situation. I don't know how can anyone with common sense --

AMANPOUR: Yes, let me ask you --

DARDERY: -- literally call a (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: You just heard -- and I just asked you to respond to what Mr. el Hawary had said.

But do you think there is now a chance for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, to stay in politics, to continue, to contest and to be amongst what so many millions of people seem to be calling for, an inclusive politics?

Or are you saying that there's going to be resistance by the Muslim Brotherhood bloc?

DARDERY: It is really more than just the Muslim Brotherhood now. There is a state of shock, a state of anger throughout so many people in Egypt. Yes, there are some Egyptians who are happy. Hopefully, they will be able to bring freedom and justice and human rights to the country.

But it does not seem to be the case. We feel, so the first thing, just a minute after the declaration, TV channels are being shut off. It's a tragedy. We will continue to work for the legitimate president, the commander in chief of the country, recognize him as the president of Egypt and he is supposed to be recognized by all democracy, all democracies in the world, in all so-called civilized world needs to recognize democracy and not to support or even exist or even be silent about the coup d'etat that took place today in Egypt.

AMANPOUR: Well, when you say, just before I leave you -- and we have to do this very quickly, when you say the legitimate president, are you talking about Morsy?

DARDERY: Yes, President Morsy --

AMANPOUR: OK, so what happened then? He is no longer president, sir. He's no longer president. What are you going to do?

DARDERY: (Inaudible) you talk to (inaudible) his supporters for millions of Egyptians he is still their president. He's just (inaudible) the Egyptian people telling him to stay peaceful, to keep communicating with the soldiers and officers in the military and not to recognize the coup d'etat that -- we will never recognize the coup d'etat.

AMANPOUR: Mr. al-Dardery, thank you very much indeed for joining me by phone from Luxor, again, a member of the Freedom and Justice Party and a former parliamentarian.

I want to bring in again Mona el-Ghobashy, a political scientist.

It sounds like battle lines are drawn.

Is this going to turn ugly? Or is it going to be political protests? What are we going to see, do you think?

MONA EL-GHOBASHY, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: I think it's going to be political protests. The Islamists are very concerned about the possibilities for repression, as Ben Wedeman said before. They might indeed make a show of resistance by staying in the streets, perhaps for a few days. But I think that the costs of actually escalating the resistance are quite high. But that's purely speculation.

The deep sense of division right now about what to call this, how to make sense of what just happened, reflects the trauma that has just happened in Egypt. And I use that word not lightly.

What just happened in Egypt wasn't with the purity of straight-up popular uprising. It would have been --


AMANPOUR: Why do you say that? (Inaudible) so many millions of people were in the street and they say, look, you know, we've given him a year and what he's done is taken Egypt to a failed state and he's just tacked to his base and he's tried to gather power and monopolies and, you know, been very brutal against the press, all of those complaints.

EL-GHOBASHY: And if that process had been left to its own devices and Morsy would have been compelled to hold early presidential elections, by the force of the people, which was the inexorable pressure of these crowds that were increasing by day, that would have, indeed, been a very different scenario.

And even Morsy supporters would have had to concede that they and their president had to go back to the drawing board and concede to popular opinion.

The minute that you have a military stepping in, even under the guise of being a mediator, an umpire, that tarnishes this process and that's why many people still quite clearly believe that it's a coup.

AMANPOUR: Now we've heard many tweets from President Morsy ascribed to him and the -- and his office, of course, former President Morsy.

He has recorded a taped statement. It was aired this evening on Al Jazeera. And he said that he's still the country's legitimate president. He's saying he's open for further dialogue. Take a listen.


MOHAMMED MORSY, PRESIDENT OF EGYPT (through translator): The world is looking (inaudible) at us today. But by ourselves, we can bypass our obstacles. We, the sons of Egypt, the sons of this country, this is the will of the Egyptian people and cannot be canceled. This will cannot be canceled after one year.


AMANPOUR: So that's a mixture of pleading; it's a mixture of defiance. But the truth of the matter is, Mona, he didn't do this. He did not go into national reconciliation or inclusiveness, which many people were asking for, you know, right until the path, the 11th hour, after midnight is where he's now making this appeal.

EL-GHOBASHY: This is a classic example of too little too late. President Morsy consistently underestimated the crowds, underestimated the strength of the crowds, the determination of the crowds. His supporters started to backtrack and use a discourse of conspiracy, all of which is true. He faces huge obstacles. No one needs to rehash the obstacles Mohammed Morsy faces, especially since he doesn't control the police forces. However, at a certain point, you have to realize that you're fighting for your survival and this, the country really is in danger. And so rather than digging your heels in, understanding the balance of power, and rather than giving the military, the opening to step in, especially since he had been given a warning for at least two weeks before this happened, he should have begun to take steps to accede to popular demands, even though they were against him.

AMANPOUR: Stand by with us a minute, Mona. We're going to go now to CNN's Ivan Watson, who's overlooking the huge anti-Morsy rally in Tahrir Square.

Ivan, what is the reaction right now? It's been a couple of hours since this declaration. The people have won.

Where are they headed now?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're still coming into the square; they have new crowds coming in, other crowds going on. And the helicopters and the military continue to fly overhead. And they're -- it's a remarkable sight because the people are lighting them up with these green lasers. And then the fireworks are continuing, not just in Tahrir Square, but in other neighborhoods of Cairo as well.

So it really is a scene of jubilation that we saw spreading throughout the city even before this announcement was made. I think one of the remarkable things that we've seen here, Christiane, is the alliance between some of the liberal voices in Egypt that had been harsh critics of the military about a year and a half ago when it was running the show, effectively, and the military itself. And the fact that you had Mohamed ElBaradei there with the top Egyptian general, when he made his announcement, that basically Morsy is being replaced as president and that then ElBaradei came out, again, this man who had repeatedly criticized the general who, through a transitional period, governed Egypt, and then called this, welcomed this move, calling this a correction in the Egyptian revolution.

Well, that truly is a remarkable shift in the political spectrum here over the course of the last few days, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Indeed it is. Indeed it is, Ivan.

And I'm curious as to how you read some of the statements that are coming. You just heard me talk to the young leader, one of the young leaders of the Tamarod, the opposition movement, Rebellion, and also to Mr. Dardery, who is the Muslim Brotherhood candidate from Luxor.

It really does seem like battle lines are drawn. Even Mohammed Morsy, the former president, is calling on people not to accept this.

What do you think is going to transpire on the streets over the next day, day and a half, couple of days?

WATSON: Well, I think what was ominous is that we were seeing quite literally these battle lines being drawn in the hour or two before the military made this announcement in the form of troops, Egyptian soldiers, riot police, special forces, fanning out in force around some of the pockets of Morsy supporters. The protest camps that have grown up over the course of the last 3-4 days is these competing protest groups that have gathered here in Cairo. And when you would ask the police special forces commanders, for example, what they expect to happen, they were very clear that they were worried that violence might erupt after this announcement was made.

And then this was really a remarkable scene that I don't think any Egypt watchers have really seen before, soldiers and special forces police down on their knees, praying before this announcement was made about an hour before that. That's something we haven't really seen over the course of the last two years since the first real revolutionary movement began here that overthrew Hosni Mubarak. I've spoken a lot to some of these Muslim Brotherhood supporters, Christiane, and they were not fazed by the deployment of these Egyptian soldiers and police. They said they were not moving and that they would die for Mohammed Morsy.

And some of the bystanders you talk to, well, they welcomed the deployment of the troops and one bystander even said this is a military coup, but I wanted -- they also expressed concern that we could be heading into a cycle of violence with perhaps Islamists starting to use bombs again, harking back to some of the violent days of the 1990s (inaudible) an Islamist insurgency here.

AMANPOUR: Indeed, Ivan, you bring up actually a very interesting point that hasn't been talked about much, what is the blowback, what is the potential backlash?

Let me just get a final word from Mona on that.

What do you think is the backlash? And don't you think also that this is being demonstrated around this part of the world right now, this deep battle between secularists and religious? Isn't that really what's playing out as well?

EL-GHOBASHY: That's what is playing out, but it's underpinned by a real difference of interests between those who are secular and those who are religious. It's not just people who have different world views. It's people who live their lives very differently, have different visions for how the country should go, have different views of what constitutes a legitimate political authority. And that's the big takeaway, I think, from today and for the next days to come. This is a very murky picture. There's no good or bad side, unfortunately. There are two different visions of political authority. One has been wounded today and another has (inaudible) been in power.

AMANPOUR: Mona el-Ghobashy, thank you so much indeed.

And finally tonight, we've seen and we've been reporting jubilation from the anti-Morsy protesters in Tahrir Square and we've also seen anger and despair from Morsy supporters. But while crowds cheer or curse, individual citizens of this fragile democracy have also spoken of what they've gained and of what they've lost.

And in the middle of all of this, the war of words that we've described over the definition of a coup, Mr. Morsy's senior foreign policy adviser, Essam el-Haddad (ph), wrote on his web page just tonight, quote, "As I write these lines I am fully aware that these may be the last lines I get to post on this page.

"For the sake of Egypt and for historical accuracy, let's call what is happening by its real name: military coup."

But there is, of course, the other side, and that side says that it isn't a coup, but it is the will of the people being implemented.

Mohamed Saleh, a middle-aged laborer, said this to "The New York Times," quote, "Let them get exiled or find rocks to hide underneath like they used to do, or go to prisons, it doesn't matter. No such a thing as 'an Islamist party' shall exist after today."

Egypt teeters on a faultline of fear and mistrust. Can a new leader bring it back from the brink? It is incredible to think that just a year ago, many people were saying that this Arab Spring is going to show the emerging of a new democracy in this part of the world and Egypt was meant to be one of the examples.

That's it for tonight's program. Meantime, you can always contact us on our website, Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.