Egypt’s military-backed government has announced the end of a state of emergency that was imposed on Aug. 14 when security forces moved to break up massive protests over the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi from office. The assault on the protest camp at a mosque in Cairo left hundreds of Morsi supporters dead.
The relaxation of martial law reflects a measure of confidence in the ability of security forces to maintain law and order. Last Monday, as Mr. Morsi appeared in court on charges of inciting murder, the army and police were able to keep protests to a minimum and avoid deadly violence.
While this week’s move will end a nighttime curfew and reduce the military’s power to arrest civilians and conduct searches without warrants, other security precautions will take up some of the slack.
Extra forces, for example, will be deployed when the curfew ends, Interior Minister Mahmoud Ibrahim announced Monday. As well, a new law giving authorities the power to restrict the size, location and timing of public protests is expected to be in force shortly.
For the past 13 weeks, Egyptians have seen many of their most popular public squares closed on Fridays – the one-day weekend – and ringed with tanks and coils of barbed wire. Their streets have been deserted after midnight, and from 7 p.m. Friday evenings, the end of the Muslim Sabbath.
Despite these efforts, supporters of Mr. Morsi, who had been elected in June, 2012, have maintained small but regular protests against the military’s takeover of power.
The state of emergency and curfew had been due to last a month, but the government had extended it for two more months on Sept. 12.
Even as the announcement was being made Tuesday, security forces moved onto the campus of Mansoura University in the Nile Delta to break up rock-throwing clashes between supporters and opponents of Mr. Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Even without the official state of emergency, Egyptian security forces are expected to maintain a tight grip on activities in the streets.
As well, many other Egyptian institutions are determined to maintain a sense of order in the country, in the hope that tourism and foreign investment will return.
Al-Ahly, the country’s most successful and popular football club, on Tuesday suspended one of its leading players for celebrating a goal with a salute in support of Islamists.
Ahmed Abdel Zaher, 28, held up four fingers when he scored Al-Ahly’s second goal in the club’s 4-0 victory Sunday in the African Champions League final. The four-finger salute has become a sign of support for the Morsi supporters killed during the assault on Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in August.
The club announced that the player’s contract will be sold at the end of the season and that he is to receive none of the bonus money he had coming to him.
Last month, another athlete, martial-arts competitor Mohamed Youssef, was banned from competing for two years after he wore a shirt with the four-finger sign to accept his gold medal in a tournament in Russia.
As well, television talk-show host and comedian Bassem Youssef was taken off the air recently for mocking military leader General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
The country still is suffering from fallout from the popular uprising in early 2011 that prodded the military to remove Hosni Mubarak from power. Succeeding months saw frequent violent protests until elections that brought Mr. Morsi to power.
Mr. Morsi’s year in office, however, was marred by heavy-handed intimidation tactics carried out by his Muslim Brotherhood organization. These in turn led to large-scale protests against his presidency.
Egypt’s military is feeling its oats in other ways as well. It scarcely missed a beat when the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama recently announced it was suspending some of its military aid to Egypt as a sign of displeasure that the army had pre-empted the democratic process.
This week, Russian officials are in Cairo to complete a deal to sell Egypt as much as $2-billion worth of military hardware. Egypt has expressed particular interest in acquiring Russia’s advanced MiG-29 fighter jets.
Moscow and Cairo maintained a long-term strategic relationship until Anwar Sadat expelled Russian military advisers in 1971.