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Egypt, WTF? (A Primer)

August 16, 2013

This is what’s left of a pro-Morsi camp in Cairo after the military moved in. (AFP, Khaled Desouki)

Egypt, as you’re probably aware, is a mess. Earlier this week the Egyptian military, on its second coup in two years, straight-up massacred members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were engaging in sit-ins to protest the deposal of President Mohamed Morsi. The latest counts have more than 600 dead and 4,200 wounded.

Yesterday President Obama condemned the violence and cancelled planned joint military exercises with the Egyptian military. He did not, however, cut off the $1.3 billion (with a b) the U.S. gives the military in aid, a move that hasn’t gone over all that well. This though the Brotherhood had reportedly accepted an international settlement plan, and though American and Western officials had urged military officials not to use force to dispel the sit-ins.

I spent yesterday afternoon chatting with a guy named David Faris, an associate professor of political science and director of international studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago. I first met Dave back in 2009, when I was news editor at Philadelphia City Paper and he a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania who occasionally wrote for the paper. Dave is, quite simply, an expert on Egypt. It’s his primary research focus. He visited the country frequently both before and after the 2011 revolution. He wrote his dissertation on it. In May, his book, titled Dissent and Revolution in a Digital Age: Social Media, Blogging and Activism in Egypt, was released.

What follows is a transcript of our conversation, edited only for clarity. Parts get a bit wonky, but if you want to get up to speed on what’s really happening in Egypt, and understand why the money we send over there is fueling the killing, this is as good a primer as you’ll find.

(You don’t want to be one of those ill-informed jagoffs on Facebook, do you?)

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  • numbers

    Egypt is the most populous country in the Middle East and the third-most populous on the African continent (after Nigeria and Ethiopia). Nearly 100% of the country’s 82.5 million[1] (2012 est.) people live in three major regions of the country: Cairo and Alexandria and elsewhere along the banks of the Nile; throughout the Nile delta, which fans out north of Cairo; and along the Suez Canal. These regions are among the world’s most densely populated, containing an average of over 3,820 persons per square mile (1,540 per km².),

    the basic problem Egypt has is unemployment driven by a demographic youth bulge: with the number of new people entering the job force at about 4% a year, unemployment in Egypt is almost 10 times as high for college graduates as it is for people who have gone through elementary school, particularly educated urban youth, who are precisely those people that were seen out in the streets during 2011 Egyptian revolution.

    Egypt has a population of 82,999,393 (APR 2011).[8] According to the OECD/World Bank statistics population growth in Egypt from 1990 to 2008 was 23.7 million and 41%

    nicely worded Mr. Faris. A fascinating subject indeed. You remind me a little of an old friend of mine Rayyan, an expert on the occupied lands of Palestine. A great change is definitely coming. Forgive the american reader. To them it’s always Israel-centered. Sadly, war will be the solution to the region’s high unemployment. Oh, and oil. One step closer to the Saudi kingdom.

  • marshall weaver

    Our poor president, what to do now? He’s been busy trying to discredit Mr. Snowden and now this to further blemish his sub par career. The world is watching Egypt burn while our brave leader heads out for another round of golf, possibly in the company of arms dealers. NO HOPE OR CHANGE.

  • mustaffa_habib_shabazz

    مضحك كيف ذهب أوباما في جولة اعتذار العالمية له لمحاولة الحصول العرب إلى مثل أمريكا والآن انظروا الى ما يحدث!