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The Irony of Tahrir Square

Letter From Cairo

Protesters shout slogans against President Mohamed Morsi in Tahrir square in Cairo July 1, 2013. Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Courtesy Reuters

For the past several days, as Egypt has approached the political cliff, the country has been seized by an ironic sense of nostalgia. Protesters massing to end Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s term have openly invoked the 18-day uprising that ousted the country’s former president, Hosni Mubarak, from power in 2011.

In truth, there are similarities: Like 2011’s protest, the Tamarod (meaning “rebellion”) movement, the grass-roots signature campaign that is demanding early elections, sprang up independently of the formal opposition and has reached citizens that the opposition never touched. And the crowd, festive and optimistic, is socially diverse and organic. Like Mubarak, Morsi has even been given his own demeaning barnyard nickname. Mubarak spent much of his time in power widely known as la vache qui rit -- “the laughing cow” (the brand of a popular French-made cheese) -- because of his perceived lack of intelligence. In chants and signs this week, Morsi has

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