The death of former president Mohammed Morsi on Monday shone a light on the brutal reality of the Egyptian counter-revolution.
Morsi collapsed during a court session and died, almost six years after he was forced from power in a bloody coup.
His death was entirely predictable, a murder actively encouraged by the regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and its Western allies.
Morsi was elected in 2012 in the country’s first ever free presidential election. It came some 16 months after the revolution that ended the rule of Hosni Mubarak. The dictator had ruled for 30 years with the backing of the US and Britain.
That inspiring revolution, based on mass strikes and enormous street protests, was the key event of 2011’s revolts across most of the Arab world. It could have gone further, opening the road to new forms of democracy and a push for socialism.
Instead it was channelled into “safe” parliamentary elections cut off from genuine control of the economy and society.
Morsi stood for the Muslim Brotherhood and in office he brought about some minor reforms. They were enough to enrage the generals and the establishment of torturers and jailers.
But he did far too little to meet the demands of a risen population who wanted to see far-reaching changes.
As world economic crisis hit Morsi couldn’t keep his promises to workers and the poor without encouraging deeper revolutionary processes—which he refused to do.
Despite his rhetoric in support of the Palestinians, he spent more effort reining in Hamas than in opening the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza.
Instead he became more authoritarian, granting himself sweeping powers while still implementing austerity. This sparked protests across Egypt.
As Morsi’s popularity diminshed, the military decided to act. The army dismissed the elected government and handed power to Sisi who imposed a regime of ferocious repression.
Morsi’s supporters set up protest camps in the streets. They were cleared in what was described by Human Rights Watch as “one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history”.
At least 1,150 people were killed in five separate incidents when security forces opened fire on protesters.
The coup was welcomed by all the “democratic” West, in particular Tony Blair. He was joined by Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, the Israeli military, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They immediately offered £10 billion assistance.
Scandalously, sections of the left joined in the praise for “secular” action against “Islamic tyranny”.
Along with tens of thousands of other members of his Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi was taken to prison. He was sentenced to death—overturned on appeal—and multiple prison terms based on trumped-up charges.
While in prison he was denied medication for his diabetes, high blood pressure and liver disease. He was kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and allowed only the most limited visits.
A human rights group said he was periodically falling into diabetic coma, suffering from untreated abscesses in his jaws, neck injuries from sleeping on a cement floor, and losing kidney and liver function due to malnutrition.
The US and Britain were unmoved by Morsi’s treatment, the mass jailing and torture or the handing down of thousands of deaths sentences. The hangman of Cairo was a reliable friend in an important part of the world. As such he was welcome in Downing Street, the White House and the French presidential palace.
Those taking part in the uprisings in Algeria and Sudan are far more sceptical about the army and its role than many people were in 2011. But, as Morsi’s life and death have shown, it is not enough to wish away the military or make minor adjustments in society after a dictator falls.
Instead there must be no deals with the military, and instead revolution in every sphere of life.