Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi gesturing during an interview Saturday.
By Charlene Gubash, Producer, NBC News
CAIRO - Islamist members of the Muslim Brotherhood were given greater influence in Egypt’s government on Tuesday when President Mohamed Morsi reshuffled his cabinet in response to demands for change.
Opposition parties and many citizens have complained of mismanagement and have urged changes, including the removal of Prime Minister Hesham Kandil.
The limited reshuffle is unlikely to satisfy his opponents or help build political consensus in the country, which is still struggling to establish a stable system in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that removed Hosni Mubarak from power.
Two of the ousted ministers were involved in crucial talks with the IMF over a $4.8 billion loan to Egypt, Reuters reported.
Nine new ministers were named, including Amr Darrag, a senior official in the Muslim Brotherhood movement’s Freedom and Justice Party, who was appointed planning minister, according to Reuters.
Another Brotherhood member, Yehya Hamed, was named investment minister, and Ahmed el-Gezawi, an FJP member, took over agriculture, lifting the movement's share to around a third of the cabinet's 35 portfolios.
Fayyad Abdel Moneim, a specialist in Islamic economics, was appointed as finance minister, replacing Al-Mursi Al-Sayed Hegaz, Reuters said.
Amr Moussa, Egypt's former foreign minister, former head of the Arab League and currently one of the leaders of the opposition National Salvation Front, said in a statement: “The cabinet reshuffle has not added or changed much. We will need another reshuffle soon."
“We need [a] national-unity-based government with high expertise so people can trust it. The challenges are huge," he added. "Therefore the current government will not be able to handle the situation. The current reshuffle reflects another complete Brotherhood-ization. Wouldn't it have been more useful to take a bigger step towards national cooperation and unity?”
Morsi announced on April 20 that he would carry out the reshuffle to replace a government widely criticized for failing to get the economy moving nine months into his presidency.
"The reshuffle is unlikely to signal any real shift in policy, particularly from an economic perspective," Said Hirsh, a London-based economist, told Reuters. "If anything, it deals a blow to demands for political consensus which the government seems to have ignored."
Reuters and NBC News' Alastair Jamieson contributed to this report.
Youth activists gathered in front of the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters in Cairo to dance the Harlem Shake in protest of Egypt's ruling party. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.
By Charlene Gubash, Producer, NBC News
CAIRO -- It is the latest Internet phenomenon that has the world laughing, but in Egypt the Harlem Shake has caught the imagination of revolutionaries who are using it as a new way to challenge the country's new Islamist rulers.
"It’s a funny way to protest how [the Muslim Brotherhood] have taken control of the country,” said law student Tarek Badr, 22, who was one of more than 100 thrusting their hips in front of the political movement’s Cairo headquarters on Thursday. "People won’t be silent. They will protest in all ways and this is a peaceful way."
One of his fellow white-clad protesters wore a Mickey Mouse head mask.
The unusual protest captured the attention of Egypt’s protest-weary press corps -- who almost outnumbered the gyrating protesters -– as well as a dozen stern-faced members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The movement's figurehead Mohammed Morsi was named president in June after the country's first democratic election in decades.
Organizer Noor al Mahalaawi, a 22-year-old engineering student, and three friends started a group that they have dubbed the "Satiric Revolutionary Struggle".
Charlene Gubash / NBC News
A protester wearing a Mickey Mouse mask dances the Harlem Shake in Cairo on Thursday.
"People are very supportive,” Mahalaawi said. “It’s a change from violence to sarcasm and it’s peaceful. There has been enough blood, enough arrests, enough trials.”
He said the message to the party was that many Egyptians “do not like their way of rule… with human-rights violations every day."
After their Harlem Shake ended, participants took up the new revolutionary chant: "The people want the fall of the ‘Murshid’ [the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood]."
An impromptu conga line snaked through crowd shouting, "Leave, leave, leave.”
One onlooker, wearing red velvet devil horns, cheered them on. "The Muslim Brotherhood are the friends of the devil," explained Iman Abdul Munim, a women’s rights activist.
A handful of the Muslim Brotherhood's supporters somberly kept guard. They ushered journalists and onlookers off the thin strip of grass in front of the gated building.
"It’s not allowed to stand here," said Wala’a Mohamed Omar, a 35-year-old telecom employee, who heard about the event and came to protect party headquarters. "I have not been paid to do this, I came for the sake of God."
Move over, PSY and Carly Rae Jepsen: There's a new video craze that has exploded online. The Harlem Shake involves massive dance parties breaking out to a catchy beat seemingly out of nowhere. TODAY's Matt Lauer reports, and the TODAY anchors and staff show off their Shake skills.
He was visibly unamused by the Harlem Shake antics, but conceded: “Everybody is free to express themselves as they wish. We are all Egyptians and don’t differ. We respect our opinion and theirs. That is what the two-year revolution was all about.”
But in Egypt, the rise of Islamists to power has changed the fabric of society, now sharply split between fundamentalists, who favor the implementation of Islamic law, and moderates who want secular government.
Many young Egyptians feel their freedom is under siege and the Harlem Shake protest is one small way to reclaim it. "It is all about freedom of expression," insisted Mohamed Mostafa, a 19-year-old law student. "We are free people and we will do what we want."
Students from Tunis Carthage Private University dance the Harlem Shake on Wednesday in Tunisia.
The Harlem Shake protest idea has also taken on elsewhere. In Tunisia, the Harlem Shake dance became a rallying cry for high school and university students after the Minister of Education Abdellatif Abid threatened to expel Tunisian high school students at a high school where it was performed and to sack complicit staff.
Tunisian Salafists - Islamic extremists - clashed with students on Wednesday as they tried to film the dance at a university.
Updated at 7:48 a.m. ET: CAIRO - Walaa Al Momtaz doesn’t leave her home for up to five days at a time. The neatly veiled 22-year-old misses her friends at City University, where she studies English and German, but what she faces upon leaving her house defeats her.
Men and boys constantly harass and threaten Al Momtaz on the bus, on the street and at the university.
"Every day men talk to me in a bad way, laugh at me and say things about what I am wearing," she told NBC News. On a recent bus trip, a man stuck his hand through a gap in the seat to touch her.
Al Momtaz has gotten off relatively lightly.
On Nov 25, Al-Ahram state newspaper reported three women were sexually assaulted during anti-Morsi demonstrations by hundreds of men.
In September, Eman Mostafa, 16, was gunned down after she spit in the face of a man who harassed her in the province of Assiut, according to police reports.
Public violence against women was rampant well before the movement that unseated Mubarak in 2011. According to a 2008 study by an Egyptian NGO, 83 percent of women have been victims of harassment.
In the post-Mubarak era, activists and protesters have reported many particularly violent assaults on women. Some experts allege the government and security officials are failing to take the problem seriously. More than 700 claims of harassment were filed across Egypt over the four-day Id al-Adha holiday in late October.
"It is not a country of law, not a state of law anymore. It has given men a chance to harass women without being accused," said Afaf Marie, director of the Egyptian Association for Community Participation and Enhancement, an NGO.
Some activists fear that women's rights will suffer under the rule of President Mohammed Morsi, who is an Islamist.
Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi reportedly left the palace via the back door to avoid further confrontation, as crowds vented their fury at Morsi's decree granting him nearly unlimited powers. NBC's Brian Williams reports.
Government inaction has allowed the problem to spiral out of control, Heba Morayef, director of Human Rights Watch for the Middle East and North Africa, told NBC News. Police no longer inspire fear as they did before the revolution. In addition, locals say it appears there are fewer police on the increasingly lawless streets -- and often none in Tahrir Square.
"The state is failing to respond,” she said. "Men don’t have to worry about being caught.”
In addition, filing charges against an attacker is a daunting process in a society where sex is taboo, and police often don’t take allegations seriously, Morayef said.
"Failure to prosecute is a major factor in the escalation of violence against women in public places," Morayef said.
Friend or foe On Nov. 19, journalist Sonia Dridi was wrapping up her live report for French Channel 24 from Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square when a crowd of up to 30 men surrounded her.
As the bodies closed in, Dridi said she concentrated on staying on her feet.
"I was just looking at (fellow correspondent Ashraf Khalil) and felt hands touching me. I was trying to concentrate,” Dridi told NBC News by telephone. “At some point I said to Ashraf, ‘Oh my God, they are touching me.’”
She didn’t know who was a friend or an attacker.
"It is so confusing that at some point I had the impression that those (who were) saying they would help were trying to take advantage,” Dridi said.
The mob pounded on the glass doors after she reached the safety of a Hardee’s restaurant on Tahrir Square, which has become a sort of refuge for women. Dridi realized her shirt was opened and broke down in tears.
"The thing that was so sad was that the Hardee’s waiters were … waiting to help me because they are so used to that," she told NBC News.
The brave Despite the risks, some women are venturing into potentially dangerous situations to stand up for what they believe in.
"I am afraid of harassment," said Mai Alam, 53, who was in Tahrir Square protesting against a recent Morsi decree giving himself sweeping powers. "I am with my husband and I keep pepper spray in my purse at all times.”
Charlene Gubash / NBC News
Mai Alam, 53, a state TV employee, was accompanied by her husband at a recent rally in Tahrir Square. She carries pepper spray to ward off would-be attackers.
“But this issue is more important than my fear of sexual harassment,” the Egypt TV employee added.
And while women find ways of coping with violence, activists have formed groups to protect them. They say the police often don't intervene when women are attacked.
At a recent march, men wearing fluorescent vests stood on rickety wooden towers and used binoculars to scan the crowd for signs of sexual mobbing. Local group Fouada Watch has set up a hotline for women, anti-harassment patrols seek to protect women in hot spots and bring alleged offenders to the police, and online services like Harassmap pinpoint dangerous sites.
Prime Minister Hisham Qandil recently announced that a law was being drafted to combat sexual harassment through harsh penalties, calling the issue a "disastrous phenomenon."
As the government decides what, if anything, to do about the epidemic of violence, women like Al Momtaz continue to try and carve out a normal life in a country that has empowered the bad along with the good.
"Everybody thinks that democracy and freedom are a license to do whatever they want," she said.
Protesters in Alexandria, Egypt, throw shoes, tomatoes and a water bottle at the motorcade of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. NBC's Lester Holt reports.
By NBC's Charlene Gubash and news services
Prominent Christian Egyptians snubbed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday because they feel the U.S. administration favors Islamist parties over secular and liberal forces in society at the expense of Egypt's 8 million Christians.
The critical theme was repeated by others Sunday in Cairo and Alexandria despite Clinton denying U.S. interference in Egyptian elections.
The politicians, businessmen and clerics who snubbed Clinton were supposed to take part in meetings between Clinton and influential members of civil society.
Coptic Christian businessman and politician Naguib Sawiris and three other Coptic politicians said in a statement they were objecting to Clinton's policies in solidarity with the mainstream Egyptian.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton poses with Egypt's Christian leaders for a picture Sunday after their meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
They also said that since the revolution, the U.S. administration and Clinton have paid many visits in support of Islamic political currents in society while ignoring other civil movements.
The four prominent Copts consider the meeting with the Islamist parties a form of external pressure to push the Islamists to power and ignore other civil movements. They blamed the U.S. for even showing a preference for an Islamist presidential candidate.
Egypt, a nation of nearly 84 million, is 90 percent Muslim, 9 percent Coptic and 1 percent other Christian denominations.
Two church leaders also turned their back on Clinton.
Coptic Bishop Morcos and Evangelical church leader Safwat al Bayadi refused to meet with Clinton because of what they characterized as interference in Egyptian internal affairs and U.S. support for Islamists while ignoring the majority of Egyptians.
A few hundred protesters chanted the same message in front of the Garden City Four Seasons hotel where Clinton overnighted.
"She wanted, in very, very clear terms, particularly with the Christian group this morning, to dispel that notion and to make clear that only Egyptians can choose their leaders, that we have not supported any candidate, any party, and we will not," a senior U.S. official told reporters on Sunday.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with newly elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a scene that no one would have believed just 18 months ago. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.
Rights for all At a Sunday meeting of prominent women, Clinton emphasized rights for all Egyptians, not their choices.
"I came to Cairo, in part, to send a very clear message that the United States supports the rights, the universal rights of all people," she said. "We support democracy. But democracy has to be more than just elections. It has to mean that the majority will be protecting the rights of the minority."
The United States will "look to any elected government to support inclusivity, to make sure that the talents of every Egyptian can be put to work in building a new future for this ancient and incredibly important country," Clinton told a group of prominent women.
Alexandria protesters chant 'Monica' Later in Alexandria, Clinton presided over a ceremony to reopen the U.S. consulate in Alexandria, which was closed in 1993 to save money.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images
Protesters gather on an Alexendria, Egypt, street Sunday as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends a flag-raising ceremony for the reopening of the U.S. consulate in the mediterranean port city.
The ceremony was moved inside as protesters grew vocal outside the consulate.
In her speech, Clinton said, "I want to be clear that the United States is not in the business, in Egypt, of choosing winners and losers, even if we could, which, of course, we cannot."
Protesters threw tomatoes, shoes and a water bottle as members of the press accompanying Clinton walked to their vans.
A tomato hit an Egyptian official in the face.
The protesters also chanted "Monica, Monica, Monica," a reference to Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern who was the focus of a sex scandal with her husband, then-President Bill Clinton.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi. Msnbc's Alex Witt reports.
The Egyptian parliament meets in Cairo on Tuesday, after being summoned by new President Mohamed Mursi in an open challenge to the generals who dissolved it last month.
By Charlene Gubash, NBC News Producer
CAIRO – Egypt's Islamist-dominated parliament opened a new front in the country's leadership showdown on Tuesday by meeting in defiance of orders that disbanded the chamber last month. The move brought new President Mohammed Morsi in direct conflict with both the powerful military and the highest court.
The legislators – except for some liberal members of parliament who boycotted the session they considered unconstitutional – passed a decision to refer a previous move declaring 30 percent of parliament illegitimate to a court of appeals.
The session lasted just five minutes, suggesting that lawmakers sought to take more of a symbolic stand, rather than a full-scale backlash, against rulings that invalidated the chamber over apparent irregularities in Egypt's first elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak 17 months ago.
Symbolic or not, something very real is at the heart of the parliamentary tussle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military: control of the body tasked with writing Egypt's new constitution.
The so-called constituent assembly will determine the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of government, and the degree to which Islamic law is applied.
Mohammed Asad / AP
Egyptian lawmakers greet each other at a brief session of Parliament, the first since the country's high court ruled the chamber unconstitutional, in Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday.
Constituent assemblies have a troubled history in Egypt. The first, which was two-thirds hard-line Islamist, was dissolved when its Christian, secularists, moderate Islamists, liberals and female members withdrew, saying that the body did not represent them.
The second constituent assembly, appointed just three weeks ago, has also been called biased, despite being half Islamist and half secular. But it has continued to meet, albeit fitfully.
Because the parliament has been dissolved, the validity of the current constituent assembly is also in question and its status will be determined in court on September 4. Morsi has asked parliament to stay on until 60 days after a new constitution is drafted and put to a public referendum, at which time new parliamentary elections would be held.
Both sides backed down from the brink Tuesday – the military removed most of the security from the parliament building and allowed members of the dissolved legislature to enter the building.
Mohammed Morsi officially became the president of Egypt on Saturday, as a new era of government takes shape. NBC's Kate Snow reports.
A crowd of around 200 people demonstrated their support for the newly elected president and the Brotherhood on a street in Cairo on Tuesday evening by chanting: "The people and the parliament are one hand" and "only the president has legitimacy."
"I support President Mursi's decision to return legislative power to the parliament rather than the military council," renowned writer Alaa al Aswany wrote. "It is the first step on the right path."
Hamdi Kandil, journalist and commentator asked: "Do the people who reject the reconvening of the parliament want the military council to assume legislative power?"
But the political brinkmanship angered others.
"It's not right to go against the judiciary. Maybe [Morsi] will decide to release [former President] Mubarak," taxi driver Haitham Mahmoud told NBC News. "Maybe he will decide to ban judges from supervising the polling stations in the next elections. The first three days of his presidency were all Morsi. After that it was all Mohamed Badie [the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood]."
Journalists Mona Eltahawy and Ethar El-Katatney provide updates on the developments in Egypt where newly elected president Mohammed Morsi has assumed power over the country.
Some feel that Morsi is working for Muslim Brotherhood – which counts for the support of around 5 million out of more than 80 million Egyptians – not the well-being of all his countrymen.
"I don’t like this. He doesn’t respect the law," Samia Hallen, a 45-year-old business administration teacher, told NBC News. "I am not sure if it is his decision or that of the Muslim Brotherhood. People have a right to be angry with his decision."
Hallen pledged a backlash if Morsi continued on the same confrontational path.
"We will give him 100 days. If we don’t like his performance, we will go back to the street."
NBC News Ayman Mohyeldin, Joanna de Boer and Taha Belal contributed to this report.
A photo by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network on Wednesday shows Syrian rebels a day earlier allegedly taking over an outpost belonging to government forces.
By NBC's Charlene Gubash
Syrian government forces are killing demonstrators at the rate of 50 to as many as a 150 a day, but Syrian opposition leaders in exile and in Syria still cannot unite around the common goal of how to topple a brutal dictator.
At this week's meeting of Syrian opposition leaders in Cairo, Egypt, the groups meant to come to an agreement on how to achieve a political transition to a government without President Bashar al-Assad at the helm. Instead they came to blows after heated arguments turned into scuffles in the five-star suburban hotel where they convened.
They disagreed on almost everything, such as how to get rid of Assad.
Khalaf Dahowd, president of the National Coordination Body's Congress in Exile, said he is against violence. He said he believes in peaceful protest and political and diplomatic pressure: "Arms have to stop, the voice of political solution will rise up. The voice of the guns will be stopped."
Dahowd opposed an armed revolt and international military intervention.
"If any military attack happens, it will destroy the social contract and the state, not the regime,” he said. “It will destroy the social infrastructure and peace within society."
He argued that militarizing the revolution has given Assad "an excuse to enforce real power with atrocities."
"The regime can succeed in the field of war. It knows how to use force. We say that in politics, they will lose," he contended.
Dahowd was not alone.
"(Special UN Envoy) Kofi Annan's six-point plan and Geneva transition plan must be supported internationally by the United Nations Security Council to stop the killing,” said Sinam Mohamed, female president of the People's Council for Kurds in West Kurdistan. “If we support the revolution with weapons, it will lead to civil war between the Alawis and Sunnis. It is already starting in and around Homs."
Mohamed also called for equal rights for Kurds who are not recognized as a separate ethnic group with a distinct language.
"If we support weapons, we will have a war; Syria as a country will be finished,” she said. “We don’t want to have what happened in Libya. War always ends in dialogue."
George Sabra, Syrian National Council spokesman, attends a Syrian opposition meeting in Cairo, Egypt, to discuss political transition in Syria.
"I am sure Al Assad will leave by demonstrations in the streets and the Free Syrian Army (FSA)," said George Sabra, spokesman for the most widely recognized opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC). The FSA is made of defected Syrian soldiers and civilians who are fighting the regime with arms captured from raids and attacks or supplied from other countries in the region. He said he is optimistic about the FSA's progress and claims they now control 60 percent of the country.
"They are making battle in the capital. It is a war between the Free Syrian Army and the government," Sabra said.
"The difference between the SNC and other opposition groups is that we strongly support the FSA and are looking to supply them with weapons and other kinds of support. It’s a real war," said Sabra, who spent eight years in prison and was tortured along with his son.
Mustafa Zakwan, director of the "I Love My Country Group," said force is the only option:
"The issue facing the opposition is clear. Syrian support is fragmented. Each region has a different opinion of how to move forward. This meeting is a useless waste of time. How do they expect that they could possibly come up with a solution in two hours when everyone disagrees. The only thing that anyone can agree on is opposition to Kofi Annan's entirely ineffective plan. Assad will not work with Annan, it is totally unrealistic. There cannot be a solution that comes from the outside. It must come from Syria, from our country. Syrians have to rely on force. It is the only way. The international community is afraid of Syrian rebels but they do not respect them. They are not engaged with them the way they need to be, with the real people on the ground."
Activist Bashar Kattab has lived outside of Syria for the past 20 years and supported removing Assad by force.
"Hope for a peaceful solution is lost,” Kattab said. “As long as Al Assad doesn’t believe in peace, neither can the protesters."
Opposition groups are vehemently at odds about whether they should unite at all. Many find it undemocratic that one voice would represent so many diverse interest groups. The Syrian National Congress purports to represent the opposition and is largely regarded as such by the international community and the media despite objections by other activists.
"The SNC … wants to dominate power,” Dahowd said. “They are not democratic. We can't go forward with that policy. The SNC is based on the Libyan model. It won't apply to Syria because there are 26 different groups in Syria."
Dahowd and many others said the SNC is dominated by fundamentalist Sunni ideology and will seek to impose its will on other social groups. Syria, with its large Shiite, Kurdish and Christian minorities, is a much more complex society than mainly Sunni Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. They were able to unite across the fault lines of religion, ideology, tribe, party and gender to unseat their respective dictators. It was only afterward, on the long and messy path to democracy, that discord emerged between factions seeking their own interests rather than the greater national good.
In Syria, the fault lines continue to impede a solution that can be embraced by all parties. After two days of rancorous talks, the final statement reflected a fractured opposition; it simply called for a halt to violence, the fall of Assad’s regime, support of the Free Syrian Army and the protection of civilians.
Participants disagreed about who would represent the opposition and the need for foreign military intervention.
The most powerful opposition group, the Free Syrian Army, boycotted the meeting altogether, saying in a statement "We refuse all kinds of dialogue and negotiations with the killer gangs…," essentially undermining the meaning of any consensus.
Charlene Gubash is NBC News' producer in Cairo. NBC News' Joanna de Boer also contributed to this article.
From the front line in what looks ever more like a fight for Syria's capital Damascus, members of the Free Syrian Army appear to be closing in on President Assad's stronghold, at a terrible cost to both sides. NBC's Bill Neely reports.
It saw the first ever democratically elected civilian president take the oath of office, not once but twice.
After President Mohammed Morsi swore in officially before the General Assembly of the Constitutional Court, he addressed the nation from Cairo University and swore his oath of office a second time before the currently dissolved parliament. He then attended an official military ceremony celebrating his inauguration.
The nation watched and this is what its citizens had to say.
“The speech was beautiful but the most important thing to us is carrying it out,” said Sayed Mohamed, taxi driver. “The most important thing we need is work. Security brings work, work brings money, money brings tourism. Morsi is trying to gather all the Muslims, all the Christians, all the institutions. He came through the ballot box, we have to stand by him and have patience.”
Ever pragmatic, most Egyptians prefer action to words.
“It’s a new era for all Egyptians," said Mohamed Sayed, 42, a bank employee. “The government’s character will appear in time, whether they are good or bad. We want them to be just. We want them to change the image of the old days that everybody had. When I hear the words (Morsi) says, will he carry them out? For how many thousands of years have people have been talking, but what do they do?”
Egyptian Presidency / EPA
The head of the military council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantaw, left, presents the 'shield of the Armed Forces,' the Egyptian military's highest honor, to Egyptian President President Mohammed Morsi during a ceremony Saturday at a military base in Cairo.
Hiba al Bandari, a fashionably dressed middle-age Egyptian woman, found in Morsi’s populist message a sign of hope and change.
“Today is a great day in Egypt,” said Hiba al Bandari. “Most Egyptians are happy about practicing democracy and I hope it will be much better in the future. We are expecting much from this president. He gave Egyptians and himself a chance of one hundred days to see what will happen. He promised to work with all people and movements. This is the first time in Egypt. In the past, nobody has done this. All the past rulers governed alone. But today he is talking to the people from those on the bottom to those on top. His speech was democratic.”
Others expressed deep concern about Morsi’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Miyvin Sedqi, a 29-year-old software engineer, worried, “I don’t feel they are ones who can represent all the different trends in Egypt, they don’t believe in democracy and are not open to different opinions. I’m kind of skeptical of what they are going to do. I don’t want them to succeed, because they are mixing religion with politics, but I don’t want them to fail as well because it would be bad for the revolution.”
Mona al Tahawy, columnist, found no reason for jubilation in today’s transfer of power.
“I think today was a big charade. I don’t think it was a historical day at all. I think it was the culmination of weeks of negotiation between (the ruling military council) and the Muslim Brotherhood. I’ve seen no reason to celebrate whatsoever today.”
Al Tahawy says Morsi’s presidency is a speed bump on the road to fulfilling the goals of the revolution.
“He took an oath today to respect institutions that have curbed his power, so I don’t know what he can do without a constitution, without a parliament and without clear delineation of what his powers are. Many of us are continuing as if the revolution is continuing and this is just an obstacle in the way.
Charlene Gubash is NBC News' producer in Cairo.
Newly elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was sworn into power on Saturday, leaving many across the country to wonder what will be included in a new constitution. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.
Egypt's President-elect Mohammed Morsi waves to supporters at Tahrir Square, the focal point of Egyptian uprising, in Cairo on Friday, June 29, 2012.
By Charlene Gubash, NBC News Cairo
Today my best and oldest friend in Egypt told me she is going abroad to prepare paperwork in the event she decides to leave her country. It's very painful to even write that sentence and even harder to reread it. My friend is Egyptian, a devout Muslim, a patriot and yet she is preparing a plan B of escape, as so many others here have done, because she fears Egypt is turning into another Iran.
Among her concerns, she mentions female self-appointed moral police, veiled from head to toe, admonishing other women that they will go to hell unless they dress conservatively. I arrived in Egypt a long time ago. To give you an idea just how long ago, NBC used an old telex machine and an even older poorly functioning landline to communicate abroad. My friend helped me master the essential skill of typing my message on a thin paper strip that I would then re-feed through the machine. Suffice to say, she was the most patient of teachers.
One of the most impressive sights to me at the time was seeing unveiled and veiled women walking down the street together, arm in arm, no judgment and no pressure to dress a certain way. In those days, most women were unveiled. As a foreigner, I always felt welcomed and only distinguished as an American by the fact that almost every cab driver would give me the thumbs up sign, upon learning my nationality, and say cheerfully, "America, number one!"
But Egypt is changing. Today, Egypt's President-elect Mohammed Morsi punctuated his first speech to the nation with a promise to work for the release of convicted terrorist, Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman. Morsi addressed tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist followers in Tahrir Square, taking an unofficial oath of office before the people who put him there. He described it as the real oath rather than the oath that he will take tomorrow before the general assembly of the Constitutional Court, rejecting the legal decision that dismantled an illegitimately constituted parliament and rejecting the military's additions to the constitution that would prevent him from controlling the military.
Morsi underlined several times that the people were the source of power and decision-making, not the institutions. Despite the fact that he initially addressed all Egyptians, Muslim and Christian, men and women, and all countries in the free world, Muslim and non-Muslim, his message was in fact directed to the hardcore constituency in front of him, fervent Islamists who would eventually like to see Egypt become an Islamic state governed by Islamic religious law.
Although President-elect Morsi repeated a message of love for all Egyptians, the vast majority of Egyptians have little in common with the Islamists who now crowd Tahrir Square.
"He handed power to the mob," lamented a Coptic Christian viewer on a talk show following the speech.
Egypt has elected a conservative president who has said he wants to impose Islamic law. How he will change the country remains unclear. NBC's Richard Engel reports.
Many felt it was improper to take the oath of office in Tahrir Square rather than before the Constitutional Court. "It's basically very amateurish," said Hisham Kassem, veteran publisher. "He made lots of mistakes to the point you think he's going to be a trial-and-error president... making a promise to hand over Omar Abdul Rahman, the first man to attack the World Trade Center. He will never be released. He is just going to annoy the Americans now," Kassem said.
"[Taking the oath of office in Tahrir] eroded his legitimacy. If he is banking on the street, it's not very savvy, his presidency will collapse in a year if he banks on that," Kassem added.
Morsi's impassioned speech is more likely to add to the atmosphere of uncertainty rather than quell it. By telling the crowded square that they were the source of power, Morsi thumbed his nose at the military generals who are trying to deny him control over the Ministry of Defense and the judiciary that has dissolved the parliament due to party members competing for independent seats.
Most Egyptians just want to get the country -- which many say is close to the brink of economic collapse -- back on track. They would rather hear about plans for restoring tourism, creating jobs and ending bottled gas and gasoline shortages than stoking anger against the military. Most would rather see Tahrir Square become a main thoroughfare, open to traffic. Instead, Morsi has further empowered the party faithful who are camped out there.
During the past week, the president-elect has reached out to those who are most apprehensive of a Muslim Brotherhood president, Egypt's eight million Coptic Christians, by meeting with their religious leaders.
"We are worried about the Islamization of Egyptian society," said Father Fafic Greiche, a church spokesman, in an interview with Vatican Radio. He also met with opposition parties and youth groups to discuss forming a new government that people hope will be representative of Egypt's women and secular and socially progressive groups.
The Muslim Brotherhood party also went on the offensive to stem fears women have about the rise to power of an Islamist. A party spokesman posted a message on the official website blaming other parties for a deliberate smear campaign by linking "individuals attacking women or girls or women's hairdressers claiming to be religious police" to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Female Member of Parliament Azza al Garf condemned the severe sexual attack on a British journalism student in Tahrir Square on the day Morsi was declared president and demanded perpetrators be brought to justice. Ironically, Al Garf herself has been sued by a women's rights non-governmental organization for wanting to reverse Egyptian laws that criminalize sexual harassment and female genital mutilation.
A man reads a newspaper featuring Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq outside his shop in Cairo on Wednesday.
By Charlene Gubash, NBC News Producer
CAIRO – With Egypt ready to go to the polls this weekend in the presidential run-off election – swords are being drawn between the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood’s political party and remnants of the old regime.
On Thursday, judges appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament and ruled that Mubarak's former prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, can stand in the presidential runoff this weekend.
Prior to the dramatic court ruling – described as a military coup by some commentators – the Egyptian media took to the airwaves to blast the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate, Mohamed Mursi, raising questions about whether he was even fit to serve as president if he won the election.
Brain tumors, seizures, Hep C? The popular Egyptian talk show, NassBook, on the Rotana satellite channel, disclosed what it claimed were private medical records from the United States and Egypt. The show asserted the records proved that Mursi had had operations to remove benign brain tumors, which could cause him to suffer from seizures as a result, and is afflicted with Hepatitis C.
Investigative reporter, Adel Hamoud, and talk show host, Hala Sarhan, displayed what they said was a pharmacy receipt showing that Mursi had purchased prescription medicine in the United States to treat Hepatitis C for 48 weeks.
A protestor stands on a barricade of barbed wire as Egyptian military police stand guard during a protest against presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq outside the Supreme Constitutional Court on Thursday.
They also showed what they claimed was a request from Mursi for medical assistance from an Egyptian university for the equivalent of roughly $42,000. The TV presenters maintained that the amount requested by Mursi indicated he needed major surgery.
A separate newspaper report also alleged that Mursi had two operations to remove benign tumors in 1985 and 2008 in the U.S. and London, respectively.
Mursi’s media relations person, Dr. Murad Ali, called in to the talk show to defend the candidate, pointing to Mursi’s ability to take part in a punishing campaign schedule as proof that the candidate is in good health. Ali repeatedly refused to answer pointed questions about previous brain surgeries.
‘Spare has a flat’ Whether the late breaking reports of ill health will sway undecided voters is still uncertain. Mursi’s bedrock supporters would vote for him “if he were a body in a coffin,” said one political observer. But others might be influenced by his alleged ill health.
“The spare has a flat,” quipped one voter. Egyptians jokingly refer to Mursi as “the spare” after he replaced Khairat El Shater as the Muslim Brotherhood candidate. El Shater was disqualified days before the first round of voting because he was recently imprisoned under the Mubarak regime.
Other stories in Thursday’s independent newspapers could discourage voters who are already lukewarm on Mursi.
The Shurouk newspaper’s headline promised “Details of the Secret Meetings Between the Brotherhood and the Military before the Elections.” The Al Dustour newspaper asked “Will Egypt become like Tunis??!!! The Brotherhood Rule Tunisia….and the people can’t remove them [from power].” And the Wafd paper warned its readers that “The Brotherhood will lead Egypt toward a Military Coup.”
Many here are considering voting for Mursi as the lesser of two evils. They view a vote for former Prime Minister Shafiq as a vote for the old disgraced regime.
In a hard-fought race between two candidates who were neck and neck in the first round of elections, each vote counts and the last thing any candidate wants at this point is negative press.
The President of Egypt for nearly 30 years, Mubarak was an advocate for peace in the Middle East and a major U.S. ally, but Egyptians eventually grew tired of his corrupt regime and he was ousted in a popular revolt in February 2011.
Egypt's deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak was in a coma on Monday, eight days after having been sent to prison to start a life sentence, NBC News reported.
Mubarak, who is incarcerated at Torah prison hospital, had been on a respirator since Sunday and on a machine to regulate his heartbeat, his lawyer told NBC News.
Doctors had to use a defibrillator twice on 84-year-old Mubarak, according to the officials. They did not say whether Mubarak's heart had stopped or he suffered from irregular heartbeats. But they said that Mubarak has slipped in and out of consciousness three times so far on Monday. He was also reported to be slipping in and out of consciousness on Sunday.
Mubarak's two sons, one-time heir apparent Gamal and wealthy businessman Alaa, were by his side, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The two sons are being held at Torah prison awaiting trial on insider trading charges.
With anger growing in Egypt over the Mubarak verdict, protestors returned to Tahrir Square to demand justice for those who died in Egypt's revolution. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.
According to Egyptian officials, Mubarak's health has deteriorated sharply since he was convicted on June of failing to prevent the killings of hundreds of protesters during the uprising that ousted him last year. They have also said he is suffering from deep depression.
He and his two sons were acquitted of corruption charges.
Mubarak's wife Suzanne and the wives of his two sons also visited the ex-president on Sunday, the state news agency reported, quashing rumors that had briefly swirled suggesting the former president had died.
Officials said that family members demanded that Mubarak be transferred to a better-equipped hospital outside the penal system. The officials said such a transfer was likely unless Mubarak's health improves.
About 200 supporters of Mubarak also protested outside Tora prison on Saturday demanding he be moved to a hospital outside prison.
Protesters fill Cairo's Tahrir Square on Saturday after Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison. Many of the protesters are reportedly angry that members of Mubarak's family and staff were not sentenced to prison as well. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.
In his last public appearance at his sentencing on June 2, the bedridden Mubarak sat stoned-faced in the metal defendants' cage in the courtroom, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses. However, officials said that he broke into tears when he learned that he was being transferred to a prison. It took officials hours to convince Mubarak to leave the helicopter that ferried him from the courthouse to the prison.
Media reports quoted Mubarak at the time as saying the military council who took over after his ouster had deceived him. "Egypt has sold me. They want me to die here," he reportedly said.
NBC News' Charlene Gubash, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
Sexual harassment has plagued recent Tahrir Square rallies and peaked Tuesday when a woman molested by hundreds of men fainted and fell to the ground in front of a female Associated Press journalist who had to be carried away to safety herself.
Journalist Nadia Abul Magd attended the Friday demonstration as 15 women and a few men on a corner of Tahrir Square quietly held signs decrying harassment. She said that just as the protest moved to an adjoining street, waves of men fell upon the protesters, hurling broken glass and rocks at demonstrators and harassing some of the women. Other men in the crowd tried in vain to protect them.
“We were surrounded by men from both sides and by [the time we reached the corner] I saw a wave. I saw so many that attacked some men and women,” said Abul Magd. “Every few minutes there was a wave. It was definitely a coordinated attack.”
She said the attackers intended to scare all women from the square and ruin the image of thousands of other legitimate protesters demonstrating against the candidacy of the former Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq.
When we had dropped in hours earlier, a few men had already started arguing with women protesters.
“What are they demonstrating against? Harassment! How can you distract like this from the public interest, which is getting rid of Shafiq!” shouted an angry young man. He gestured toward the throng of thousands filling Tahrir Square and oblivious to the smattering of women holding signs. “There are 500,000 people out there. This is not the time.”
Lubna Ezzat, an engineer, protests against sexual harassment in Tahrir Square, Cairo, on Friday.
Two other men crowded against the short line of female protesters and held up their own anti -Shafiq fliers while venting fury at the women for staging a separate protest against sexual harassment.
The women explained why they took the risk to protest for the right to walk the streets unmolested.
“You know when you leave home it will happen, either touching or bad language. Every day [harassment] happens here on the streets. Some days it’s escalated,” said May Abdul Hafiz, a travel agency supervisor. She explained that women are considered at fault for encouraging unwanted male attention by dress or behavior. “You are not supposed to say anything because they think you brought it on yourself.”
Yasmin, a 28-year-old filmmaker who gave only her first name, called harassment a “disease.”
“It doesn’t matter what I wear or what age they are, old, young, no reason. We want to change this situation. … We want to criminalize harassment,” Yasmin said.
May Abdul Hafiz, supervisor of a Cairo travel agency, demonstrates against sexual harassment at Tahrir Square, Cairo, on Friday.
Marwa Salah, a banker, said women’s rights will come with civil rights.
“When you have freedom you will have your rights. It’s about freedom for all Egyptians,” said Salah. “We have been brainwashed for 60 years. All people were so busy fighting poverty, women’s rights were a low priority.”
Abul Magd said the march Friday was targeted by men who wanted to prove they could sexually harass even those who dare protest against sexual harassment in order to prove that Tahrir Square is no longer safe for women or for those who try to protect them.
But the women had the last word. Friday night some of the assaulted protesters were invited to appear on a popular Egyptian talk show where they shared their concerns about sexual harassment in front of a nationwide audience.
With anger growing in Egypt over the Mubarak verdict, protestors returned to Tahrir Square to demand justice for those who died in Egypt's revolution. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.
CAIRO, Egypt --The crowds of Egyptian protesters streaming into Cairo's Tahrir Square under flowing party flags on Tuesday night may have fallen short of expectations in terms of numbers but they did not lack anger and defiance.
Initially billed as a "Million Man (March) of Justice," the demonstrations were directed at presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq. Former President Hosni Mubarak had appointed Shafiq to the prime minister position in the dying days of his regime, forever tainting Shafiq with the brutal crackdown that killed more than 800 protesters in 18 days.
“Shafiq will never return (legally) through the ballot boxes,” declared protester Amr Sayed. Sayed does not belong to a political party but says he will vote for the Muslim Brotherhood candidate to prevent a Shafiq victory.
“There will be change,” Sayed said. “Forty percent of Egypt is young men. If Shafiq wins, we will overturn everything into fire and destruction. He can only win through fraud with the help of the military.”
Housewife Nasreen Ahmed demonstrates at Cairo's Tahrir Square against presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq.
Mostafa al Shimi, a retired military officer at Tahrir Square, said he had to follow orders throughout his career, whether right or wrong. Now a civilian, al Shimi wants a civilian president -- Shafiq, however, is a former air force general.
Shafiq “can’t go anywhere without guards surrounding him,” al-Shimi said. “We feel that we are in danger with Shafiq, the military council and the deeply rooted regime. They are fomenting a counter-revolution.”
A protester at the square screamed in rage, “If Ahmed Shafiq wins even without fraud, we don’t want him. We are staying here. Kill us like you killed our brothers; we are staying here.”
A teacher, her face and body enveloped in a black veil despite the heat, said she lost a cousin to the revolution. She said she deeply mistrusts Shafiq.
Yasmina Muslemany / NBC News
Rawda Al-Araby, an Egyptian medical student, demonstrates in Cairo's Tahrir Square for a retrial of former President Hosni Mubarak.
During the revolution "Shafiq said, 'Let the protesters stay in Tahrir and we will bring them candy,'" said the teacher, who would not identify herself. "The candies came in the form of bullets that killed our children, brothers and martyrs."
Shafiq’s supporters believe he will restore law and order, but the veiled school teacher worries that security will come at a price.
“Shafiq says he will restore order within 24 hours,” she said. “That means he has the power to set the regime’s thugs on us.”
New revolution? Protesters at Tahrir Square see a Shafiq victory as a return to the Mubarak days.
Nasreen Ahmed said it isn’t fair that Shafiq, the former prime minister, is running.
“People died in the streets to remove the old regime,” Ahmed said. “It wasn’t so the old prime minister could become the new president.” She hopes the spontaneous demonstrations that have filled Tahrir Square since Saturday will herald a new revolution.
A demonstrator in Tahrir Square who identified herself as an Egyptian citizen said she came to protest against candidacy of Ahmed Shafiq, former president Hosni Mubarak's former prime minister.
Egyptians across the country were incensed by the Saturday verdict that sentenced Mubarak and his Interior Minister to life imprisonment but exonerated his two sons and six Ministry of Interior officials. Although anger at the verdicts prompted large numbers of demonstrators to take to the streets, it is deep-seated hatred of Shafiq that is keeping them there.
“We will stay here until the election results come in,” promised al Shimi, the retired military officer. “When Morsi (the Muslim Brotherhood candidate) wins, we can tell him we are the ones who put him there. We will tell him, ‘Tahrir put you in office, now what are you going to do for the people who will hold you accountable?’”
Many are voting for Mohamed Morsi because they believe he will be more susceptible to protesters’ demands than Shafiq. Others say Morsi is as untrustworthy as Shafiq.
“I don’t like either of them; they are both the same,” said medical student Rawda al Araby. “I won’t give my vote to either of them in the elections.
Mechanical engineer Ahmed el Beguirmy, 27, said he would also advocate a second revolution but he does not believe this is it.
What would trigger another revolution?
Beguirmy said that would happen if the military government refuses to hand over power.
Yasmina Muslemany/ NBC News
Mostafa al-Shimi, a retired military officer, protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square against the candidacy of Ahmed Shafiq, former President Hosni Mubarak's one-time prime minister, who finished second in the first round of the presidential race.