Egypt protests: What you need to know

Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi march towards Old Cairo as they carry the coffin, covered with a national flag, of their colleague who was killed during Wednesday' clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 16, 2013.

Deadly protests have ravaged Cairo, claiming hundreds of lives. Here's what you should know about the current conflict and the country.

Violence has been wracking Egypt as demonstrators organized against a military leadership that has ruled the country since former President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown in July.

Related: Egypt clashes leave scores dead nationwide

At the time of his removal, Morsi and his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, were accused by moderate, secular Egyptians of trying to monopolize power and distribute it to Islamists. They were also blamed for not adequately dealing with social and economic strife in Egypt. The military leadership justified the coup by arguing that Morsi was abusing his powers.

History

  • Egypt is transcontinental, spanning Africa and Asia. The country is the size of New Mexico and Texas combined.
  • The kingdom's history dates to 3200 B.C. It has been ruled by Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottoman Turks, who ruled Egypt into the 20th century.
  • Britain established a strong sphere of influence in Egypt in the 19th century. Egypt gained partial sovereignty from Britain at the outset of World War I and full sovereignty in 1952.

 

Demographics

  • 85.2 million people live in Egypt, according to the CIA World Factbook; 90 percent are Muslim.
  • Ten percent of Egyptians are Coptic Christians, the largest Christian church in the Middle East. Recently, Coptic Christians and Islamists have clashed in Egypt.

 

The Muslim Brotherhood

  • Founded in Egypt in 1928 to protest British rule in the country.
  • Founder, Hassan al-Banna, sought to create an Islamic state guided by the Koran and other important Islamic texts.
  • Al-Banna was assassinated in 1948 and the group was banned in the 1950s after its leaders were accused of assassinating President Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1954.
  • It survived underground and re-emerged politically in the 1980s. It grew to be Egypt's largest opposition party to President Hosni Mubarak, who led Egypt from 1981 to 2011.
  • The schism between the Brotherhood and Mubarak represented two distinct ideologies in Egypt. One group believes Egypt should be an Islamist state. The other believes that Egypt should be a secular, moderate Arab state.

 

The Arab Spring and Mohammed Morsi

  • Fueled by the Arab Spring movements protesting national leaders across the Middle East, Egyptians began demonstrating en masse against the autocratic Mubarak in 2011.
  • On February 11, 2011, following an 18-day uprising, Mubarak stepped down.
  • In the country's first democratic election in 2012, Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood politician, was elected president

 

Current violence in Egypt

  • Animosity between Islamists and moderates continued to plague the country and protests were common under Morsi.
  • Moderates accused him of favoring Islamists, monopolizing power and ignoring economic hardships. Fuel shortages and electrical outages were common.
  • Last month, Morsi was deposed by a military coup led by Military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Military leaders then arrested many prominent Muslim Brotherhood politicians.
  • Islamists and Muslim Brotherhood backers have said they will oppose the new military leadership's plans for a new constitution and a presidential election in 2014.

 

The future

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned the government attacks and canceled joint military exercises with Egypt. He has not, however, called Morsi's July ouster a coup, which would force the U.S. to cut off aid to Egypt.
  • In turn, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have pledged $12 billion to Egypt to help bolster government security forces there.
  • Security officials feel the violence in Cairo could spill over into the Northern Sinai peninsula that borders Israel and incite violence there.
  • "The real, underlying problems — ideological division and a free-falling economy — are only going to get worse," Max Fisher wrote for The Washington Post.

 

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