Monday, July 1, 2013

Watching a coup in slo-mo

It has been quite a couple of days. As I'm sure many of you know, Cairo saw huge protests yesterday organized by the Tamarod, or "rebellion" movement, calling for President Morsi's ouster. Millions of Egyptians poured into the streets, united and optimistic in their calls for a better future. Yes, there was some calling the ikhwan sheep, calling for the US Ambassador, an "old woman," to leave. But for the most part, everyone was happy and unified and in good spirits. I could even feel the unity on the streets. People would tell me hello, good morning, normal interactions I have in DC. Doesn't usually happen here.

Yesterday morning, the morning of June 30, it was not so. I arrived late morning from spending the weekend at the North Coast. The streets of Cairo were silent. It was so eerie. I met up with my friend, Jake, a huge, strong manly man who was also freaked out by the emptiness of the streets. Cairo was collectively holding its breath to see what would happen, and had been for days.

We watched the events unfold at a friend's flat. The photos were amazing... millions filling Tahrir and Itihadiya Palace. Kids and old people were out, waiving flags, emphasizing their devotion to seeing the revolution through and unwilling to let another strongman commandeer power from the people. People were telling jokes.

People fill the streets near the Presidential Palace.
People were also really happy about the military flying helicopters above Tahrir. These were the same folks who were so pissed we sold them to Egypt. You're effin' welcome, Egypt (sarcasm).

Military helicopters above Tahrir.

Sometimes--okay, often--people ask me why I moved to Egypt. During bad days I cannot remember, especially after I've been assaulted or groped or dragged from a moving car or called a "dirty woman" by some a-hole on the street. Especially when I compare it to the United States, where I can run around DC in soffee shorts and a tank top and feel completely comfortable, where electricity almost never cuts, and where there are only "first world" problems. But then I spend the day with my coworkers and I love Egypt again. Or Mahmoud at the gym who thinks I kick ass and doesn't hit on me at all. Or my guy friends on whose shoulders I've literally cried when I feel like I can't take it anymore. Or when all of Egypt comes together, sheds the usually rigid social barriers and demands their rights and an improved future.

Tahrir filled to the brim last night.
That was the blog post I was going to write this morning, full stop. Then the opposition announced Morsi had until Tuesday at 5pm to step down or else. Then the military announced on Twitter they would make an announcement. On the bright side, the military announced an announcement on Twitter. That's kind of cool.

The contents of the announcement were less so. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF, led Egypt after Mubarak's fall. They were also the ones who massacred Christians protesting at Maspero. They are also seen as the one institution that is on the side of the people--a common chant is "The military and the people, one hand." Many Egyptians are nostalgic for their rule--and that of Mubarak--remembering the past as a time with stability, economic growth, security, etc.

This afternoon the military, which said it did not want a role in politics, would nevertheless intervene in 48 hours with a "road map" should the political elite fail to heed the "will of the people." It praised the Egyptian people for astounding the world and emphasized it's "responsibility" to maintain the safety and security of the nation. In a collective act of amnesia, people are cheering this on.

So, folks, in 48 hours we will probably have a military coup. It won't be obvious--it'll be a sneaky coup. But that's what it is.

My physical safety is not at risk right now, for those at home. I live in the safest area in Cairo, surrounded by embassies--but far from that of the US.

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