Monday, September 2, 2013

Update from Egypt

I have been asked for an update on the news in Egypt. I am honestly hesitant to say anything anymore. Each time I write something, I get attacked for my point of view. Even when I'm not expressing my point of view, but rather recounting events, I am criticized. I'm not sufficiently pro-military in this us-versus-them environment. I'm not ikhwani, I'm not Al-Jazeera, but I've been called such by more than one person over the last few weeks.

On a personal level, what's going on makes me sad. I'm losing friends. I have Egyptian friends whose political points of view--they're all moderates--are vilified by friends and family. I'm disheartened  that I feel like I can no longer say I am uncomfortable with the killing of over a thousand people (some were armed, but many weren't), or the indiscriminate use of force, or arrests without charges, or military arrests of civilians, or crap charges against politically moderate or anti-military people (I guess I actually did say it. My apologies to everyone in Egypt who I just offended). Many are supportive of this because the actions are targeted against the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, whose opponents see as posing a threat to not only the Egyptian identity, state, and individuals.  My concern is that eventually the powers that be will turn on you too. SCAF was not exactly the protector of the rights of Egyptians.

Just to summarize, on August 14 the Egyptian security forces cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Rabaa Adaweya and Midan Nahda. In the days that followed, over a thousand people were killed. The MB kept on having marches after the dispersal, during one of which there were reports gunmen shot automatic weapons across the 15 May Bridge, traversing the Zamalek enclave. There was a video that went around showing MB supporters pulling police officers out of their tanks and beating the crap out of them. The stories my journo friends told me about the scenes following the crackdown--I can't even recount them.

For awhile civilians went down to "augment" the security forces in fighting back against the MB. Any semblance of an independent media outlet here is shot. In one day, 36 prisoners were died from tear gas inhalation. They were apparently kept inside a military vehicle during the (incredibly hot in August) day and began pounding on the sides demanding air. Security folks shot tear gas into the enclosed space to quell the uprising. Later that night, 25 military recruits were executed point-blank coming back from leave in the Sinai. Churches left unprotected by security forces were burned by angry MB supporters. The military imposed a curfew from 7pm--ridiculously early--until 6am, which was later pushed back to 9pm and now 11pm as people stopped paying heed.

"Non-compliant" media is under attack--literally. The lead correspondent for the Wall Street Journal was attacked at a standoff outside a mosque by anti-Morsi folks; he had to seek protection inside a military vehicle.  A journalist for the official flagship newspaper, Al-Ahram, was shot dead at a checkpoint after curfew--despite the fact journalists are exempt from curfew. The military said he did not stop at the checkpoint, but his passenger said he was making a u-turn when killed. His passenger, also a journalist at Ahram, was detained after countering the official accounting of events. There were a few other journalists who were killed during the crackdown. Al Jazeera offices were raided and its journalists detained (Al Jazeera, affiliated or controlled or something by the Qatari government, is incredibly unpopular here for Qatari support of the MB and unbalanced coverage).

Liberal politicians and activists were charged with espionage (April 6 founder Ahmed Maher) and "betrayal of trust" (against Mohamed ElBaradei, Western darling and liberal politician). Yesterday there were reports of a dismantled bomb at a train station in Egypt's second city, Alexandria, and today a homemade grenade was thrown at a Cairo police station.

In general, things are relatively calm now. The MB have been unable to marshal much support. There are sporadic gunfights but life is slowly getting back to normal--normalish. People are depressed and many who can are leaving. And while things are calm, there will be serious ramifications for a long, long time. Hopefully masr will come out of this better than not only a few months ago, but better than three years ago. 

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