CAIRO -- During the latter half of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule, those who suggested rising up against him often would be reminded of an Egyptian phrase, “The one you know is better than the one you don’t know,” referring to Mubarak’s potential replacement.
As a judge ruled Wednesday that the imprisoned former leader – whose increasingly unpopular presidency amid economic and social decline spurred the 2011 uprising that led to his fall – could be released as soon as Thursday, the familiar adage once again permeated the nation’s consciousness.
Meanwhile, the military-backed government continued its crackdown Wednesday on the Muslim Brotherhood. It arrested senior allies to the recently ousted president and Mubarak’s successor, Mohammed Morsi, in an apparent ongoing effort to decapitate the group’s leadership and hamper its ability to organize new protests.
Egyptians successfully deposed Mubarak through mass protests just two years ago. But the period since has taught them that a leader whose practices and abuses are familiar is better than the one whose aren’t, many said.
But even as the Egyptian prime minister’s office issued a statement that Mubarak would be put under house arrest, the rage against the former dictator that once stirred hundreds of thousands in mass protests has been replaced with exhaustion over the upheavals since his fall.
The images of the former leader detained in a court cage, lying in a hospital bed, in the months after his removal from office once led many to believe a new Egypt had emerged. But on Wednesday, there was little talk of taking to the streets or appealing to the courts for his continued detention.
“Hos-ni! Hos-ni!” a group of street venders in the Zamalek section of Cairo yelled after learning that the courts no longer had reason to hold the former president.
Mubarak is expected to stand trial on numerous charges of corruption and brutality. The former president was sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to prevent the killing of more than 700 demonstrators during the 18-day uprising in 2011, but that case now is under appeal.
“I am disappointed, but people will not go back to the streets like before,” said Mohammed, a taxi driver who declined to give his full name so he could speak candidly. “They are tired of the Brotherhood.”With that, it appeared, the revolutionaries and their supporters now are backing the counterrevolution led by the Egyptian military and its civilian-appointed government. There was speculation Mubarak would run for office again, but regardless, the mentality of his military-governed state already was back.
Since Aug. 14, at least 1,100 people, many of them supporters of Morsi, have been killed in clashes with government security forces. National and regional leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization through which Morsi ascended to the presidency, have been rounded up and charged by the government that replaced him.
The military and the civilian government have justified their actions by saying they are carrying out the public will, which has supported the crackdown.
Since Morsi’s July 3 ouster by the military, “ikh-wan,” the Arabic word for “brotherhood,” has replaced “fu-lool,” or “remnant,” as the latest term of derision.