Laura Dean's Cairo Diary

Cairo Diary, July 3: Praying We Don't Get Fooled Again

By Laura Dean
Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 9:46 PM

At 7 p.m. this evening, Mohamed Morsi was informed by the armed forces that he was no longer president of Egypt. Prime Minister Hisham Qandil has been sacked and sentenced to one year in prison. All I can hear is car horns with intermittent jubilant chanting. On the other side of the city, at Rabaa el Adaweya (where I was yesterday), I read that Muslim Brotherhood protesters are chanting, "Down, down with military rule"--- a chant that was often used by activists and liberals when the country was ruled by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces before Morsi came to power.

Rinse, repeat.

For the last two days I have heard people call for Morsi's arrest and even his execution. When I point out that he is the elected president, not a criminal, I am told by one young man that "Egyptian presidents only leave office one way; they die or they go to prison."

Tomorrow at 10am the new interim president, Adil Mansour, who was until today president of the Supreme Constitutional Court, will be sworn in. The current constitution will be suspended temporarily, a national reconciliation committee formed, and a technocratic government appointed. Which technocrats are these? Nobody knows. There will be early presidential elections, and the High Constitutional Court is also being encouraged to hasten the passing of a new parliamentary elections law, which is currently under review. There's also something about drafting a code of ethics to "guarantee the media's professionalism." This latter item seems rather dubious to me, particularly given tonight's ongoing crackdown on Islamist-run media.

Meanwhile President Morsi is said to be detained in an intelligence facility.

That's the big news.

Selected Oddments from Coup Day

There are mass arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members going on tonight. The AFP reports that there are orders from the police to arrest 300 leaders and members. The military shut down three Islamist-run TV channels, one of them run by the Muslim Brotherhood. Security forces broke into Al Jazeera's Egyptian news station and detained five staff members, four of whom have since been released.

There was a march yesterday evening, which started in a neighborhood adjacent to downtown, and was advertised as a "Protest for women avoiding Tahrir" on account of the harassment and assaults. Glad it exists, sad that it has to.

Fulbrighters are being evacuated from Egypt. All of the ones I know are upset about it.

Mohamed ElBaradei is the leader of the opposition.

UNHCR has closed its offices, so some of this city's most marginalized people cannot access vital services.

Most people I talk to from the younger generation seem to keep abreast of the news through Facebook. Perhaps for that reason, Essam el Haddad, Head of the Office of the President, chose that forum to release a moving, open letter in English about what he derided as a "military coup ." When one reads it, el Haddad's piece seems sincere, and only goes to show just how far the two sides in this conflict are from one another.

Where are the Salafis in all this? They've been keeping very quiet, for the most part, but certainly have not faded from the scene. Poussy Malaka, a 55 year-old woman I met a few nights ago, while she was protesting outside the presidential palace, said that "[the Salafis] want a piece of the new cake." And when the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces made the rounds today, he met with with ElBaradei, Al-Azhar Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb (the Grand Imam of al-Azhar), Coptic Pope Tawadros II---and of course, Salafi representatives. We haven't heard the last of them.

Tales from Kit Kat: A Society Dividing

I used to live in a neighborhood called Kit Kat, named for a club that once stood there and was frequented by British officers and Egyptian elites. Last night in Kit Kat's main square, there was a confrontation between a group of Brotherhood supporters and young regime opponents from the neighborhood that left four dead and 63 wounded.

It seems to me that the story of the last 24 hours in Kit Kat is the story of how societal division begins.

That story, as told to me, is that a group of Muslim Brotherhood supporters were standing on a street corner. Most people say they were protesters on their way to the demonstration at Cairo University, where there was horrific violence last night, while others say they were just normal guys in galabeyas (the long traditional robes worn by many Egyptian men) and beards. In any case, a group of Morsi opponents started insulting them and throwing bottles and bricks at them. The pro-Morsi group took out guns; the anti-Morsi guys took out more guns.  And then the shooting began, leaving four dead and filling the nearby Workers' Hospital with injured.

Of the people I speak to in Kit Kat today, no one has anything good to say about the Brotherhood, though some admit that many people in the area voted for the group in the last elections.

At a bread seller stand in the neighborhood, there's a conversation about the events of last night, and all the conversation's participants blame the Brotherhood. But then a woman intervenes.

"You don't need to say that! We're all Egyptian. . . . We are all one," says Azza, who gives only one name and says she is very worried about the divisions within society that the protests and counter protests have caused. "The youth killed here yesterday---all were one hand," she says, using a term ("the hand") signifying unity between two groups, these days generally the people and the army.

I also talk with Moustapha Gad, a 30 year-old fruit vendor who was hit with birdshot last night. He tells me that today, young men from the neighborhood set up a popular committee, like those formed during the January 2011 revolution to protect neighborhoods no longer guarded by street police. Gad says the committee will stop anyone who looks to belong to the Muslim Brotherhood.  (As far as I can tell, that means men with beards and galabeyas.)  When I ask whether that's discrimination, he answers, "we know it's a bad thing, but they did it" referring to the shootings in Kit Kat.

When the lights go out and the water doesn't work, all Egyptians are frustrated. When fuel lines make it take three times as long to get anywhere because the streets are clogged with cars waiting for gas, who doesn't seek change? When the price of a tomato goes up by 500 percent, it affects everyone.  The challenges faced by members of the Brotherhood and by members of the opposition are the same. It's the reactions that are different.

This is a time when a society should be standing together, not pulling itself apart.

Tonight Cairo has one fewer president, jubilation on one side of town, anger and democratic dispossession on the other, and a lot of shared frustration in between. Tomorrow and the days to come must bring some sort of reconciliation.

A piece of pop culture seems strangely apt tonight. The first comment on the YouTube page of the old song by The Who, "We Don't Get Fooled Again," is fittingly, "Good Luck, Egypt!"

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