Saturday, September 15, 2012

We read Arabic, motherf***er: Protests in Cairo

That's right. Americans can read Arabic, too.

The US Embassy here and the Muslim Brotherhood got in a Twitter-spat when the Ikhwan posted on their English-language Twitter feed they were thankful no embassy employees were injured during protests in front of the embassy in which protesters scaled the embassy walls, tore down a US flag, and replaced it with a black Islamic flag. This, despite the fact their Arabic-language feed wrote, "Egyptians  revolt for the Prophet's victory in front of the US embassy."

Protests have erupted across the Middle East and spread to many countries around the world, including Indonesia, India over an anti-Islam movie that insults the Prophet. In Libya, armed militants attacked the consulate in Benghazi and killed US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other embassy employees.

The US embassy pointedly highlighted the discrepancy in the feeds on its own handle.

When I saw this I was furious. I spent the last few months trying to persuade my Egyptian friends to give the MB a chance. And now this--they're just playing with fire. Feeding the frenzy.

While no US embassy employees were killed during the protests this week, I think what's going on in Egypt is a bigger problem than what happened in Libya. In Libya, initial investigations seem to show the protests were commandeered by militants armed with RPGs and SAMs. Unfortunately, this is something the US knows how to deal with. The Libyan government immediately came out against the attacks, apologized to the United States, and vowed to work together to eliminate future attacks. The Egyptian government, on the other hand, merely denounced the VIDEO for the first few days, demanded the US bring those behind the video to justice, and support the right of Muslims to defend the honor of Mohammed.

The response of the government and the Twitter exchange above really show how what's going on in Egypt is potentially a much bigger problem.  The protesters are not just driven by anger about the movie--they're sick of being humiliated, sick of their government, sick of US policies, angry with their circumstances, and frustrated. This frustration will be a lot more difficult to address, especially as it is quite nebulous. Why exactly is everyone so pissed? What can the US do to make them not pissed? Everyone is pissed for about a million reasons, and nothing the US can do will make everyone happy.

AND THEN the MB called for Friday protests. People were going to protest anyway, did the party in government really need to call people to the streets? The protests turned out to be pretty violent, with two people dead. I left central Cairo for the suburbs on Friday. My apartment is really close to the square and I didn't want to get stuck or worse.

What did I do instead??? Had a baller time--future blog post coming soon on my weekend!

This morning the Central Security Forces, federal police I think, stormed Tahrir and the area around the embassy and forcibly dispersed protesters. They are now stationed around the area, holding an uneasy calm.  I drove through in my cab this morning and no tent, no person was in the center of the circle--it's the first time I had ever seen that. Police in riot gear were standing everywhere, with huge military trucks and ambulances parked around the streets leading to the square.

Ahram reported that a government official who visited the area after the raid was met with applause from locals.  

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