Apparently not that much.
“If [army chief] Al-Sisi wants us to go out [to the streets], then we will go out,” wrote one female Egyptian columnist in Al-Masry Al-Yowm daily newspaper. She was writing in response to Al-Sisi’s July 24 call to the Egyptian people to take to the streets the following Friday to give the army a mandate to confront “violence and potential terrorism.”
“Frankly, he doesn’t need to invite or order us. All he needs to do is wink… And if he wants to have four wives, we’re at his service. If he wants us as melk el-yemeen [members of his harem], I swear we aren’t above that!” said the much enthused writer.
Al-Sisi’s 40-minute speech on July 24 was reminiscent of Egypt’s first (or second, depending on who you ask) president, Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Speaking with dark sunglasses in his sharp military uniform, he appealed to the Egyptian people with storytelling and apparent sincerity. “I swear to God, I swear to God, I swear to God,” Al-Sisi repeated, “the Egyptian army is as united as the heart of one man,” he said in response to rumors that the army was split over the ousting of Morsi.
Egyptians were almost unanimously fed up with the state of affairs in the country post-revolution. Prices had spiked, electricity blackouts were frequent, fuel shortages were bringing major cities to a virtual standstill, and crime and thuggery were at all-time highs. Public opinion of President Morsi and his Islamist government was sinking into a mud pit.
Egyptians were in need of a savior and Al-Sisi was going to be him.And boy did he stage one amazing entrance. Apache helicopters flew over Tahrir Square as protesters called for the ousting of President Morsi on June 30, showering the crowds with Egyptian flags. As interim president Adly Mansour was sworn in, fighter jets conducted flybys over Tahrir Square, drawing hearts in the sky and trailing smoke the colors of the Egyptian flag. While Egyptians celebrated the 10th of Ramadan (1973) crossings of the Israeli defenses on the eastern shores of the Suez Canal, helicopters spread coupons over several cities, offering free household goods. Possibly conscious of its need for a public image facelift, the army also appointed a new military spokesperson in the fall of 2012, who has recently had an increasingly important role in addressing the masses. Colonel Ahmed Aly, a dashing 40ish man in, of course, heart-throbbing military uniform, already has thousands-strong fan pages, one full of girls who want to marry him.
It has been one huge love fest lately between the Egyptian people and its army.
The army hasn’t been doling out the love to everyone, however. In other parts of Cairo, army helicopters dropped leaflets on Morsi supporters, urging them not to take up arms against their brothers. In Sinai, leaflets warned citizens to stay away from the fields and from security checkpoints at night. Early Saturday morning, the army is said to have stood idly by while police forces and armed civilians are claimed to have attacked Morsi supporters protesting in Nasr City, killing 120 and injuring more than 1000.
In the midst of all this, many Egyptians seem to have forgotten the mass calls of “Down, down with military rule!” that were made during the 17 months the Military Council took control of the country post-revolution. Revolutionaries have also forgotten the forced and brutal evictions from Tahrir Square, military imprisonments of civilians, and virginity tests conducted by military personnel on young female detainees.
In the meantime, revolutionaries (and many others) have buddied up with the military and are encouraging them to treat Muslim Brotherhood protesters with the same despised treatment they got when the military was last in power.
Anti-Brotherhood/pro-army protesters now greet army helicopters and F 16s with huge roars of cheers, fireworks, and blinding green lasers that fill the skies. And they offer themselves as marriage partners to them as well, it would seem.
It is as if the country has suddenly been overtaken by a mass of zombies.
Are you an army chief and wish to take over your country from a democratically elected president who has low opinion ratings? Follow the Egyptian example. It is a sure winner. Coupons, hearts in the sky, and army personnel in dark sunglasses (women can hardly resist an army uniform in sunglasses, obviously). That is all you need. You will immediately win over the hearts of millions who will forgive (or forget) every atrocity you may have done in the recent past.