In Cairo, shooting, anger, and bracing for more confrontation
In Cairo, those protesting against President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were faced down by his loyalists. A view from the ground.
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And yet that is exactly what is happening: it is not Egyptians fighting a security apparatus, but one group of Egyptians with different ideas about the future facing off against another. It could be argued, however, that one side has just been deputized by the Muslim Brotherhood.Skip to next paragraph
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Essam al-Arian, the vice president of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), declared earlier on Wednesday that “if state agencies are weak and still damaged by the wounds of the past, the people can impose its will and protect legitimacy. Members of the FJP will be in the front lines, God willing.”
Last night, on Al Jazeera, Mr. Arian referred to the clashes at the presidential palace as “the last battle of the revolution against the counterrevolution.”
The anti-Morsi take
But the anti-Morsi side begs to disagree. Safaa Elaisy Haggag, a film editor and critic, is shouting at her worried daughter over her mobile phone. “No I am not leaving. Stop calling me,” she shouts.
Ms. Haggag says she was at a film festival downtown when she heard about the attack on the palace sit-in. “I left immediately. I couldn’t stay away while they are beating up our kids.”
She got off the bus thinking that she was on the anti-Morsi side, but ended up by mistake among the pro-Morsi side instead.
“They kicked me out, but not before checking my ID and taking my picture. The Muslim Brotherhood are a state within the state now, with their own security apparatus and everything.”
Haggag, who is unveiled, remembers how the Muslim Brotherhood loved to put her in pictures with veiled women during the 18-day uprising in Tahrir Square. “They thought I was a Christian; they wanted to show unity. They never imagined that there are Muslim women that look like me!”
As reports start to come in about the first casualties in the clashes around the presidential palace, it is difficult to see how this could end well.
Both sides are laying the blame for the violence at the other’s feet. The narrative from the Muslim Brotherhood is that Morsi is a democratically elected president, and that the opposition is trying to impose its will through street violence. One Morsi adviser, Gehad al-Haddad, has suggested that the opposition is inciting people “to scale the palace walls and remove the president by force.”
But according to Egyptian state media, three other Morsi advisers handed in their resignation following Wednesday’s events. Several other Morsi advisers had already quit over the president’s decree.
On Tuesday, Egypt’s prosecutor-general, Talaat Ibrahim, a Morsi appointee, opened an investigation into allegations that opposition politicians Amr Moussa and Mohammed ElBaradei are part of “a Zionist plan to disrupt the internal situation, spread chaos and overthrow the regime.” Prison time for opposition leaders may be the next step in the unfolding drama.
For now, the Muslim Brotherhood seems secure in its conviction that the majority of Egyptians are behind the president, and that they want stability above everything else. It not unlike the logic that proved ultimately unsuccessful for Hosni Mubarak.
But as 24-year-old Mahmoud Hashem observed outside the presidential palace on Tuesday night, the Mulsim Brotherhood might just get away with it.
“It will be like the parliamentary elections all over again. While we are fighting in the streets, the Muslim Brotherhood will be canvassing the neighborhoods, convincing people to vote yes in the referendum on the constitution.”