July 3, 2013 is a historic day for Egypt, Iran and the United States. A day before U.S. Independence Day, the first democratically elected president of the country – Mohammed Morsi – was removed from power by the country’s military, and is now in house arrest. Meanwhile, the military also arrested 12 top Muslim Brotherhood leaders on the morning of 4 July, according to the Washington Post, while other leaders of the movement had already been detained throughout the country some of whom in the Torah Prison where a year ago Hosni Mubarak had been detained after a three-decade rule.
Two days before Mohammed Morsi was ousted, he was given a 48-hour ultimatum to meet the people’s demands or step down, while the only ministers in his cabinet who were not members of his political party – the Muslim Brotherhood – resigned. President Morsi consistently refused to step down defending the “legitimacy” of his power after having been democratically elected. After the end of the military-imposed ultimatum – 5pm on July 3 – their demands had not been met by the president, and he was swept aside from power, while the controversial Constitution was suspended.
Since becoming president, Mohammed Morsi has implemented changes that increased his power. On November 22, 2012, he issued an edict that provided him with exclusive powers to protect the revolution by exempting his decrees from judicial review until a new constitution is ratified, as the New York Times reported at the time, but after mass protests by the people and condemnation of the edict by top officials of the Supreme Judicial Council. A month later, there was a constitutional referendum on a constitutional draft that included Islamic law and principles of the Sharia law as the main source of legislation, thereby submitting the country to one religion, isolating it from the non-Islamic world, and potentially allowing for repression of representatives of other religions and atheists. The referendum was passed by the people – with 56.5 percent of approval, but incredibly low voter turnout – roughly a third of the electorate – and a variety of irregularities at polling stations across the country such as early closings and women being prevented from voting, among others – and all that on top of suspicions that the people who are more likely to participate in the referendum would be the ones supporting Islamic rule, thereby leading to these favorable results.
The public policy implications from the events in Egypt since Mohammed Morsi came into power indicated that Egypt was not transitioning from a dictatorship to a democracy. In fact, little by little Egypt was changing one regime – that of Hosni Mubarak – with another regime – that of Mohammed Morsi and his conservative party the Muslim Brotherhood, whose views on the United States, the western world and non-Muslim ethnic and racial groups merit serious questions. In other words, Egypt was turning into Iran of 1978-1979, that is, during its Islamic Revolution, and therefore from an ally or at least a friendly country to the United States, it was turning into a U.S. enemy. Some social media participants even started warning the people of Egypt not to let their country turn into the Islamic Republic of Iran of the times of public executions using cranes in both urban and rural areas. With the help of their military, the Egyptian people was successful in preventing further atrocities from happening and aspiring to rebuild what has been destroyed for the merely one year of Muslim Brotherhood oppression.
Meanwhile, in Iran, President-elect Hassan Rouhani dared, in a speech to the powerful clergy, to express the commonsense view that both the government and the clergy should end their interference in Iranian citizens’ private lives. Quoted by Reuters, he supported the unity of the clergy and the state, contrary to the American ideal of the separation between church and state, but somewhat similar to the way Americans view he stated that the role of the government is not to interfere in all affairs or the lives of people but in “improving popular trust and… offering services, decreasing problems, setting the stage for further development of all citizens to help meet the needs of the people and the desire for change.
The United States government should take advantage of these two events by encouraging their citizens to act as a guarantor of bringing democratic and free-market reforms to the end. Now is the moment for the United States government to issue a statement commending the Egyptian people, the Egyptian military and the Iranian president on their bold moves toward a better future for their countries.