From Tahrir to today: Where is the Brotherhood now?

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi hold a copy of the Koran and Mursi's picture at Talaat Harb Square, in Cairo, January 25, 2015. (Reuters)

The oldest and once the largest opposition group in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is facing the most serious crisis in its 86-year history after the overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi in 2013.

Its existence under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is a major challenge in light of multiple killings and arrests among its ranks, as well as the loss of popular support, analysts say.

Rise and fall

The Brotherhood was a staunch opponent of former President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in 2011.

Back then, Brotherhood members stood with other protesters against the autocratic ruler. Brotherhood youth in Tahrir Square protected it from pro-regime thugs, according to activists who participated in the protests.

Mubarak’s ouster and subsequent elections paved the way for the group to rise to power. However, the intensity of discontent toward the organization and Mursi, a member of the group, began increasing.

“The Brotherhood’s failure to consolidate power it gained in 2011 was the beginning of the end of its rule,” said Ahmad Ban, a Cairo-based researcher in Islamist movements.

“The Brotherhood knows that the problems it encountered were all the result of its struggle to rule.”

Hundreds of supporters were killed in protests denouncing Mursi’s removal. Violence following the forceful dispersal of pro-Mursi sit-ins in Cairo led to days of chaos that killed scores among the security forces.

Since his removal, Mursi has been detained and is facing trial on several charges, including the killing of peaceful protesters, espionage and insulting the judiciary.

The vast majority of the Brotherhood’s senior leadership has been jailed, including General Guide Mohammed Badea and his deputy Khairat al-Shater. Hundreds of members have been sentenced to death, and those sentences are being appealed.

Struggling to survive

Oppressed and sidelined for decades, the Brotherhood finds itself today weakened and politically isolated in an unprecedented way, having lost the popular support it used to rely on, Ban said.

While reconciliation initiatives have come and gone, it is unlikely that a compromise will be reached unless the Brotherhood “reviews its policy toward violence,” Ban added.

“The Egyptian state can’t compromise if the Brotherhood insists on maintaining an ambiguous status in which it acts as a political party and a religious group.”

Speaking of the upcoming parliamentary elections, Ban said the Brotherhood will likely support specific candidates “who wouldn’t be known” as affiliated with group.

Anniversary protests

Ahead of this year’s anniversary of the 2011 revolution, the now-banned Brotherhood has called for a week of protests before and after the celebration day under the slogan: “Together We Revolt.”

Tarek Khouly, an opposition political activist, said the Brotherhood is aiming for a “political change,” but he expects protest calls to fail.

“The Brotherhood wants to take to the streets for its own purpose, to call for Mursi’s return, but people no longer want that,” Khouly said.

Ban said the Brotherhood “is aware that its protests are limited and reliant on its supporters, but insists on maintaining street-level pressure on the government.”
 

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