Egypt's one and only democratic leader Mohammed Morsi died on Monday and became a martyr who nailed his colors to the mast for his country, people and religion. The death of Morsi marks an end of an era for Egypt as the country's latest attempt of a democracy has also been buried with him. The effective words of the Egyptian leader from his last speech as a president back in 2013 may be some of the most suitable ones that reflect on his stance in the life.
"If the price for safeguarding legitimacy is my blood, then I am prepared to sacrifice my blood for the cause of safety and legitimacy of this homeland." Shortly after speaking these words, the Egyptian army overthrew Morsi, their only democratically elected president, on July 3, 2013. By overthrowing Morsi, the coup plotters actually overthrew "a figure that challenged the status quo in the Middle East," as Hüseyin Mercan, an academic from Yıldırım Beyazıt University, put it.
Morsi, a leading member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, won Egypt's first free presidential election in 2012. However, his journey began way earlier than that. Morsi was born on Aug. 8, 1951 in the village of El Adwah in northern Egypt's Al-Sharqia governorate. He grew up in a simple family. His father was a farmer and his mother was a housewife. He married in 1978 and has five children and three grandchildren.
Morsi moved to Cairo to study Engineering at Cairo University from 1970 to 1975 and graduated with high honors before being appointed as a lecturer. He obtained his Master's degree in metallurgical engineering in 1978.
That same year, he won a scholarship to study in the United States and received a Ph.D. in materials science from the University of Southern California in 1982.
While in the U.S., he became an assistant professor at California State University, Northridge from 1982 to 1985. He also worked with NASA in the early 1980s to help develop Space Shuttle engines. In 1985, he returned to Egypt and became a professor at Zagazig University, where he was appointed head of the engineering department and served there as a lecturer until 2010. He was later elected as a member of the Anti-Zionist Committee and was a founding member of the Egyptian Resist the Zionist Project Committee.
In 2000, he was elected as a member of the Egyptian Parliament for the Muslim Brotherhood and was the head of its parliamentary bloc and its spokesman. Morsi was one of the most active members of Parliament, serving in that role from 2000-2005. He co-founded the National Association for Change in 2004 and the Egyptian Association for Change in partnership with famed Egyptian figure Mohamed ElBaradei in 2010, which played a pivotal role in preparing for the Egyptian revolution that led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
The Mubarak regime arrested him for his role in the association before he was liberated by the Egyptian masses days before Mubarak was toppled.
Morsi co-founded the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the Democratic Alliance, which included many parties.
On April 30, 2011, the Shura Council of the Muslim Brotherhood elected him as chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party alongside Issam al-Erian as his deputy and Mohammad Saad Al-Katatni as party secretary.
Morsi won the first post-revolution presidential election in 2012, becoming Egypt's first democratically elected civilian president and fifth president of the republic. Mercan said that Morsi, as the first democratically elected president in Egypt's most legitimate elections in history, symbolizes a breaking point in the modern history of Egypt.
"He took the most important responsibility for both Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood in a very critical time," Mercan said, adding that he lived in tough times under the oppression of the old regime before the revolution, and became the president in a tough time by carrying the weight of the transition period following the revolution.
The following year, Egypt witnessed anti-Morsi protests before then Egyptian defense minister and current president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi overthrew him in a military coup.
Since Morsi's ouster, Egypt's post-coup authorities have waged a relentless crackdown on dissenters, killing hundreds of the former president's supporters and throwing thousands in jail on "violence" charges. Stating that the el-Sissi regime tries to create a very negative image of Morsi in Egypt, Mercan said Morsi's legacy is perceived as a threat against a very strict authoritarian regime led by el-Sissi. "Eventually time will reveal the truth and the real image of Morsi will arise again," added Mercan. Shortly after the coup, Morsi's party, the Muslim Brotherhood, was officially designated a "terrorist organization" in Egypt. Morsi faced a host of charges since he was ousted and imprisoned.
There were six charges against the former leader, including "jailbreak, murder, spying for Qatar, spying for Hamas and Hezbollah, insulting the judiciary and involvement in terrorism."
Morsi's family, along with local and international organizations, repeatedly complained about his worsening health conditions in prison and his solitary confinement. All of these appeals were ignored by the Egyptian authorities.
Abdel-Monem Abdel-Maqsoud, a lawyer for the former president, said the defense team received the news of his death from other defendants who were with him during the session.
"President Morsi was moved from the court, and we didn't know his location as we were following the procedures after the demise," he said.
Abdel-Maqsoud added that Morsi said during his last trial that he would remain proud of his country despite "the injustice he suffered" after the coup. "I know secrets that I won't reveal for the sake of my country's security," Morsi was quoted by his lawyer as saying.