Army Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stands next to interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi. (Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
Khaled Dawoud worked hard to remove Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, from office.
As the spokesperson for the National Salvation Front, a loose coalition of non-Islamist parties and groups formed last November, he was a well-recognized voice of opposition to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. In the weeks leading up to June 30, Dawoud traveled across the country, helping to drum up support and organize logistics for the massive anti-Morsi protests.
After the army ousted Morsi on July 3, Dawoud was a regular guest on local and international news channels, vociferously defending the overthrow and arguing that the president’s removal did not constitute a military coup.
“I do not have any regrets over Morsi’s removal because the Muslim Brotherhood were posing a major threat to the future of this country,” he says. “They betrayed every single principle of the Egyptian revolution.”
Yet now, Dawoud finds himself at odds with the group he once represented, and he is vilified by many of his former political allies.
The turning point came on August 14, when the military and security forces brutally cleared the two mass sit-ins in Cairo that formed the epicenter of support for the ousted president. Hundreds of people were killed in what Human Rights Watch describes as “the most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history.”
The National Salvation Front leadership, which includes former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabahi and Amr Moussa, put out a statement applauding the raids. Two days later, Dawoud—who describes himself as a “leftist, not a liberal”—resigned as the group’s spokesperson.
“We wanted a political deal, we wanted Morsi removed, but we didn’t want to suppress [the Muslim Brotherhood] or kill them or consider them an outlawed organization,” he says, sitting on a heavily cracked black leather couch in the offices of Al-Ahram Weekly, the state-owned English-language publication where he has worked as a journalist since 1996. After resigning, he says, “even some close friends called me a Brotherhood sympathizer, a secret cell, a traitor and a US agent.”
Dawoud’s story is emblematic of Egypt’s convoluted political landscape, whose fault lines have shifted and rearranged in the aftermath of Morsi’s overthrow and the subsequent brutal crackdown on the Brotherhood and its allies.
Opposition to Morsi grew throughout his time in office, eventually stretching across nearly every sector of Egyptian society. It also had grassroots support, manifested in more than 9,000 protests and strikes during his year-long rule that culminated in calls for early presidential elections and the unprecedented June 30 mobilization.
His opponents included a broad swath of political and social movements, often characterized by conflicting ideologies and grievances. It included revolutionary activists, labor unions, human rights advocates, the Coptic Church, intransigent state institutions, former Mubarak regime members and sidelined business elites as well as the formal opposition—the flock of non-Islamist political parties and figures routinely lumped together as “liberals,” despite the fact that many of them have rejected any notion of political pluralism, a defining characteristic of liberalism.