Egypt’s interim Vice President Mohammad Elbaradei resigned as security forces used brute force to suppress sit-ins staged by pro-Morsi elements in Cairo on Wednesday. A total of 525 people were killed in the chaos that ensued as riot police backed by armored vehicles, bulldozers, and helicopters stormed two separate pro-Morsi sit-ins. The Ministry of Health and Population reported that over 3,000 people were injured, marking the bloodiest day in the history of the Egyptian state since the 2011 uprisings that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.
Mohammad Elbaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2005 and the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), cited the crackdown by the military as the main reason for his resignation. His resignation, despite his own political preferences and initial support for the coup that ousted Morsi in July, is a commendable act of protest against the actions of the security forces. His action confirms that the use of violence by either side in Egypt will not solve the challenges Egypt faces. Rather, it will further incense the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a resignation letter to Interim President Adly Mansour, Elbaradei wrote, "The beneficiaries of what happened today are those who call for violence, terrorism, and the most extreme groups ... It has become difficult for me to continue bearing responsibility for decisions that I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear. I cannot bear the responsibility for one drop of blood."
Elbaradei’s resignation also quells the criticism he faced from those who labeled him a puppet controlled by the dictates of the military.
The rural Egyptian society still consists mainly of Muslim Brotherhood supporters. The security forces will be faced with an even angrier Muslim Brotherhood support base that they have continuously underestimated in terms of its size and devotion to the Brotherhood. The coercive actions of the security forces will be a deep scar to its legitimacy among even those, such as Elbaradei, who initially supported the military rule.
It is important for the Egyptian military to tread carefully in the current turmoil and avoid aggravating the situation any further. Any move in the direction to quell Muslim Brotherhood supporters could result in an exacerbation of the current conflict, and would delay a resolution to Egypt’s challenges.