Morsi's Emergency Law Only Makes Matters Worse in Egypt

Dashiell Bennett

President Mohammed Morsi declared a state of emergency in parts of Egypt, as two competing strains of violence merged to create a nation overrun by chaos. Planned demonstrations on Friday, to mark the second anniversary of the nation's revolution, were overtaken by deadly riots following a controversial court decision on Saturday, leading to an even bigger outpouring of protest in the days since — all of it directed at Morsi and his government. When Morsi's response was to declare a curfew and state of emergency in three of the hardest hit towns, his actions only inflamed citizens even more.

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As many as 50 people have killed over the last five days, most of them in the city of Port Said, which was the site of a bloody riot last February. When 21 people involved in that riot were sentenced to death on Saturday, supporters responded with more violence, storming the jails and firing on police, who responded in kind. On Sunday, the funerals for those killed on the day before simply became the catalyst for even more violence and death.

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Port Said falls under Morsi's emergency measures, along with Ismailia and Suez, but the actions appear to have had little effect on the size of crowds, which appear to have grown at times in protest of the move. Egyptians have not reacted well to any of Morsi's attempts to implement "temporary" edicts, which include giving the military permission to act like a police force and arrest citizens. The last time the country was placed under an emergency law was in 1981, when Hosni Mubarak became president following the assassination of Anwar Sadat. It remained in effect until he was deposed in 2011.

The remains of @afpphoto photographer's camera after he was attacked by crowd in #PortSaid #Egypt #photojournalism #AFP…

— patrickbaz (@Patrick_Baz) January 28, 2013

All the while, protestors and police continue to battle in Cairo's Tahrir Square. It seems the only thing that Morsi's actions have managed to accomplish is to unite a fractured opposition into one bonded by their dislike of the president and his Muslim Brotherhood party. Two years after the revolution that brought him to power, citizens have become disillusioned by lack of progress and a return to the old authoritarian tricks—like temporary emergency laws meant to silence opposition—that were in fashion under the old regime.