The Painful Road to A Better Egypt

Source:  www.assistnews.net

Date:  2013-07-28

By Lucy Shafik
Special to ASSIST News Service

CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- I woke up this morning to another sad and depressing newsfeed on my phone. Most mornings have become like this. I go to sleep hoping I will wake up to good news, and sometimes I do, but most often I don't.

Morsi supporters demonstrate

Most of the clashes occur at dawn when the pro-Morsi protesters gear up and gather steam and go on marches across Cairo, and after they break their fast at Iftar time (7pm), which is the evening meal when Muslims end their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

They start blocking main roads and sometimes take to violence by attacking passersby whom they consider to be their opponent or a threat. Since this is the month of Ramadan, in which people stay up late and sleep into the day, most of the marches and the peak of the protests are usually after Iftar, which is at 7 pm and continue late into the night.

I live only five minutes away from Rabaa El Adawiya, which is an intersection where all the pro-Morsi supporters have been camped out for the past three weeks. So every night at around 8 pm I begin hearing military helicopters and planes flying low over the Morsi encampment and around my neighborhood. The army has been doing that for the past few weeks to make sure they are not mobilizing for violence or ready to go on a killing spree.

Last night I could hear them again, but this time it was non-stop all through the night and they were circling the area every few minutes. I couldn't sleep and would lie awake, praying and hoping there would be no bloodshed that night. I had a bad feeling that violence could possibly break out since the Muslim Brotherhood are prone to see Egypt's army chief, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi's speech calling for mass demonstrations as a direct threat to them.

He had called for millions of citizens to go out on the streets on Friday to back the military and police, prompting concerns that he is seeking a popular mandate for a violent crackdown on supporters of the overthrown president, Mohamed Morsi.

Men check the IDs of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, said to have been shot in the Egyptian capital after violence erupted the night before, at a field hospital in Cairo, on July 27, 2013.
(Photo: AFP)

So yesterday we had another day of mass demonstrations across Egypt to support the military's decision and give them a mandate and green light to take tough action against terrorists or anyone resorting to violence against civilians. Unfortunately by late into the night after the demos had died down violence broke out between Morsi supporters and security forces.

There are conflicting reports but the Interior Ministry says about 49 people have died and the MB claims 127 dead. In these types of situations the information is never clear until four or five days into the incident. As for what happened, reports say that the pro-Morsi supporters were heading to the 6th of October bridge, a main bridge that connects the city and wanted to make camp there and close off main roads, the police intercepted them and started throwing tear gas at them, then Morsi supporters started firing live ammunition at the police which led to police firing back. The victims are from both sides.

For those criticizing the security forces and their strong use of force, if they won't use it now, when will they? There is a real danger of terrorism in Egypt and the spread of Jihadists and Al Qaeda is now more than ever. The army and the police must use the utmost force against those forces that are out to destroy, kill, and oppress. So it is understandable why Egyptians support the military and state and will continue to do so.

As I was reading the news this morning my heart sank and even though I was expecting it, the death toll is so high and it's becoming frequent. Every time I think things have calmed down a bit, they get deadly again and it feels like we're back to square one. I know that we're not because what happened on June 30th is nothing short of a miracle, but I still hope the Muslim brotherhood would stop resorting to violence and terrorism and start cooperating with the new government.

Anti-Morsi supporters making their voices known

I wish they would stop their plots, their deception, and their constant distortion of the truth. People across Egypt are beginning to grasp how twisted the Muslim Brotherhood is, but for every non-supporter of the MB there are another three supporters unfortunately.

Estimates say 35 million people participated in the Friday, July 26, demonstrations. That's a huge number and may have even exceeded the number of people who took to the streets on June 30th. My family once again joined the protests at the presidential palace where thousands upon thousands of people streamed into the neighborhood and it was so crowded it took us half an hour to find a parking spot and it wasn't even near the area. Tahrir Square, which is a few kilometers away from the presidential palace and was the epicenter of the Jan. 25 revolution was also jam packed, with every side street full to the brim with people. Many actually fainted from the big crowds, they couldn't breathe!

The military chief, who supported the ouster of president Morsi as per the people's request, gave a televised speech on July 24th. In the speech he encouraged and pleaded with people to take to the streets once again and give a mandate and permission for the military to intervene with the required force and power against any form of terrorism which has been on the rise in Egypt since the ouster of Morsi.

The military chief general, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, addressing the nation

He did not mention the Muslim Brotherhood in the speech; he only mentioned terrorists and those who are seeking violence. He also spoke a little about the events leading up to the decision to overthrow Morsi and how he had pleaded with the former president to make serious concessions before it was too late but the president repeatedly refused and therefore he was forced to take action by responding to the demands of the majority of Egyptians who wanted Morsi out.

Here is a short excerpt from his speech, in which he calls on the people to join the army in its fight against terrorism by taking to the streets on Friday, July 26th.

"You (Muslim Brotherhood) want to rule or else destroy the country. You want the army to be with you or else destroy it. I call on the Al-Azhar, the Church and all institutions to assume responsibility before it is too late. There are some who want to take the country to a critical curve. I ask all honorable and faithful Egyptians to take to the streets on Friday, to mandate me to confront terrorism and violence. I did not ask of you anything before. I want you Egyptians to delegate the army and the police to confront violence in a suitable way. Please bear the responsibility with the army and the police. Show your steadfastness. This does not mean that I want violence or terrorism. If violence or terrorism are resorted to, the military and the police are authorized to confront that violence and terrorism." (Source, Egypt Independent Newspaper).

As I listened to the speech, I was moved and vowed to myself that I would do my part, however small that is to end terrorism and radicalism in Egypt. Al-Sisi was not calling for violence or more division with his speech, which is what most of the Western media implies, instead he wants to show the world that this was not a military coup and that he is not acting on a whim but rather it is the Egyptian people who give the orders. They are the ones who have empowered the army to take action and restore order and security to the country.

The millions of people who filled the squares and neighborhoods across Egypt made me proud to be Egyptian as I have felt several times over the past month. I couldn't believe that all these people who used to be so apathetic and hopeless about their situation could mobilize and voice their opinion so loud and clear. Their message is we will make our future and we will stand against violence and intimidation in all its forms.

Egytians say 'No to terrorism'

People were holding up posters of General al-Sisi, the Coptic Pope, and the Azhar Sheikh showing solidarity and unity between all factions. Others were holding up signs criticizing Obama and much of the Western media on their stance against Egypt and for condoning and supporting terrorism. Other signs just read "No For Terrorism." It is amazing to see the creativity that comes from oppression, there were so many slogans and artistic signs brought into the squares.

Many people braved the heat and humidity, which must have been even more difficult for those fasting Ramadan; they couldn't eat or drink until Iftar time (7pm). The reason so many people took to the streets despite these difficulties is because their grievances were many; people have been dying on a daily basis since Morsi's ouster. Many innocent civilians were attacked just because they happened to pass by one of their marches. Some would be taken and tortured until death and others would be beaten up until the police intervened and saved them. Others would get shot on the spot with live ammunition. Morsi supporters constantly block main roads, so people get stuck in two to three hour traffic jams. I was once stuck in a neighborhood that is ten minutes away from where I live for more than an hour because a pro-Morsi march was passing by.

Many security forces have died or have been badly injured over the past few weeks, especially in Sinai, which is where most of the Jihadist and terrorists reside. They carry out most of their sinister activities in Sinai and El Arish.

Christians have also been targeted especially in Luxor where 23 homes have been torched and Copts were kidnapped and brutally killed. Muslim Brotherhood leaders are beginning to use strong rhetoric against Christians, claiming that they will start using force against Christians and threatening the Church, nobody knows what that means yet, but we are starting to see scattered incidents of Christians being targeted, one woman was passing by a pro-Morsi march, when they attacked her car and broke her windows all the while yelling "Christian, Christian!"

Churches across Egypt are continuing to pray for peace and calm, and for God to bring revival in Egypt even if the situation seems to be getting worse, we believe God can and will bring good out of this and perhaps even turn the hearts of Muslims from this darkness into the path of light and truth. My home church, Kasr El Dobara, located in Tahrir Square, the heart of the protests, provides food during Iftar time in Tahrir Square to Muslims in the streets that come to break their fast and eat alongside Christians.

The church is the largest Christian Arab church in the Middle East, and seats 1,500, but accommodates an additional 1,500 in overflow seating through closed-circuit TV.

I took part in serving the food last Friday and it was a wonderful thing to see, people chanting "Muslims and Christians, one hand!"

I wish we could say that about all Egyptians.

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