Bridging the fault line in Egypt

I’ve sat glued in front of the laptop watching the news feed on Facebook and Twitter about the events in Egypt.

No, not events.  A massacre!

Early Wednesday morning, the Egyptian military and security forces surrounded the two encampments in Cairo where pro-Morsi supporters have hung out since President Morsi was forcibly removed from office on July 3.  The demonstrators are demanding that Morsi be returned to power.

The Egyptian military is now in power and they show no signs of taking orders from anyone. More than 500 people were killed, 1000s injured, the vast majority of them pro-Morsi supporters.

One Egyptian commentator said there has never been this level of violence and killing in a single day in Egypt —- not even during Mubarak’s 30-year reign nor during the January 2011 revolution when Mubarak was overthrown.

Some of the people killed in Egypt yesterday were doctors, heart surgeons, engineers, photographers, journalists, etc. This guy is an engineer. He was not an extremist. I was told he opposed the Muslim Brotherhood and wanted early elections. When he realized the coup had been hijacked, he joined the protesters at the sit-in and was killed yesterday.

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Egyptians are very polarized.  Activists and international observers are taking sides and becoming polarized too. I’ve never seen such demonization, not even in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

The two sides are engaged in a very intense Facebook debate which goes something like this:

“There was no other way to get rid of Morsi. He and his Muslim Brotherhood were dangerous for our country and dangerous for democracy because they were grabbing power to build an Islamist nation.  We had to stop them before it was too late.  This coup was a civilian coup, not a military coup.  Millions of Egyptians spoke with one voice and the military heard us and acted on our behalf.”

The other side argues:

“Morsi won in a fair election, millions of Egyptians voted and their voices were heard in 2012.  Some of us support him now and want him to fulfill his election promises. Some of us never supported him and don’t support him now, but we support the dream of a democracy where decisions are made at the ballot box, not with guns.  After the coup, all Egyptians will be the losers because only bloodshed and civil war will follow.”

There are elements of truth on both sides but how do Egyptians move forward?  If only countries had a reset button!

I fear for the future of Egypt, it could be worse than the Mubarak’s regime. I fear for my new friends in Cairo. My friends in government who helped me secure passage through the Rafah border to Gaza.  My friends at the lodging where I spent weeks in Cairo and they became my family away from home. My friends who work in the NGOs and the think tanks in Cairo who are so bright and intelligent and deserve a future equally bright. The young man who sold me a candy bar every evening from his stand on the sidewalk. The young boy who should have been in school but instead was on the same spot every day making sandwiches and had such a wonderful smile. My Egyptian friend who is a Fulbright scholar in Albuquerque and wants to return to his home when he finishes his PhD. I fear for all of them. My heart breaks.

And bridging the fault line in Egypt seems impossible.

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2 Comments

Filed under Egypt, People, Video

2 responses to “Bridging the fault line in Egypt

  1. Yes! I’m much more tuned into the US government’s nuanced messaging about events in the Middle East after spending 9 months in Gaza. I don’t think the average American understands it.

    Someone should write an article using quotes from Obama and his Administration about different events in the Middle East, but transpose the quotes with different events, different contexts, different countries. Then American hypocrisy would be so clear.

  2. The muted response from Washington is most interesting. A fairly muted reply considering it looks like the death toll may climb into the thousands. Imagine if an unfriendly government had committed these acts. I’m certain the rhetoric would have gone above “This needs to stop”. Like say perhaps turning off the billions of dollars of military coming out of the tap. Or even, heaven forbid it, sanctions.

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