Laura Dean's Cairo Diary

Cairo Diary, July 4: The First Day of the Rest of Egypt's Life

By Laura Dean
Friday, July 5, 2013, 12:03 AM

In the U.S., the Fourth of July is the nation's birthday. In Egypt, it's the first day of the rest of the country's life.

It happened so fast that many of us are still in shock, still processing everything that's happened in the last few days.

All day, the Tweeps have been busy coining new terms like "Civil Coup," "Coup Egyptian Style," "People Supported Military Coup," "Popularly Legitimate Coup," "Coupvelution" and "popular impeachment"---or just objecting to the use of the word "coup" at all. A coup that so many people like this much can't really be a coup, after all. Can it?

Meanwhile, outside the Twitterverse, there are different names. Tomorrow is the "Friday of Rejection" to supporters of former President Morsi (How strange it feels to attach the word "former" to his name!). The Muslim Brotherhood has called for peaceful protests tomorrow after Friday prayers to protest Morsi's ouster and the arrest of Brotherhood members across the country. There are also some worrying, not-so-peaceful words coming out of the Brotherhood's encampment this evening. They seem to be largely the ravings of individuals---for now---but they are concerning all the same.

There are reports and videos of vigilantes' targeting of Brotherhood members. This one is entitled, "Army officer hands over an Egyptian supporter of Morsi to thugs who set upon him with swords":

There were similar reports in Zagazig in the Delta and Minya in Upper Egypt today. This country faces economic catastrophe, but the first task for any new government---immediately and above all else---is reconciliation, without which nothing else will be possible.

Tales from Kit Kat (Cont.): An Imam's Story

Yesterday, I wrote about the neighborhood of Kit Kat, a neighborhood where I used to live and where a shootout between Brotherhood supporters and regime opponents claimed several lives the other night. Today I go to visit the imam in the mosque next to the square where the shootings took place. Imams play a significant role in Egyptian society. They have been known to encourage people to vote in elections and often have the power to rile people up or calm them down. Particularly given the violence on his doorstep, I wanted to find out how he saw his role in the days ahead. Like any religious figure used to dealing with people with of diverse backgrounds and opinions, Imam Madeeh Abdel Atheem Mansour is a diplomat. He is adamant that politics do not belong in the mosque. But the mosque does belong in politics, and for those who were shot two days ago---supporters and opponents of then-President Morsi alike---he has harsh words: "I say those who were killed are not martyrs. If Muslims kill each other with their swords, both [killer and killed] will go to Hell." He says he wishes he could reach a wider audience in the community---those who don't come to Friday prayers but stay in coffeeshops and cafes instead. When I ask him about the composition of his own mosque, he says, "there are supporters and opponents [of Morsi], but they listen to their imam." The role of mosques is to occupy a position between the two, he says, and it is a very important role. He says that while he understands those Morsi supporters who call for "legitimacy," he also says that the former president should have gone to the protesters and engaged with them, asking them what they wanted. He is quick to point out that all Egyptians are suffering the same economic and security challenges and that people are upset with Morsi because "after one year he didn't bring anything new." He sees his role as one of preaching "unity" and he hopes that the month of Ramadan will bring understanding and heal recent divisions in Egyptian society. Best of luck to him tomorrow.

Scattered Thoughts

We already know why militaries are ill-suited to governing. In some ways, the structural similarities the Brotherhood bears to a military organization made them similarly ill-suited. The Brotherhood is a hierarchical organization; it is a closed group; there is no room for dissent. Its cadres are not taught to build coalitions or compromise with others. Its years of operating as an underground organization have contributed to those similarities. The messy business of politics, particularly in an age where everything is televised and slapped up on social media almost before it happens, it seems to me, inevitably stress the insularity and rigidity of that structure over time. Pushing the Brotherhood members back into their jail cells and back underground once more will only serve to reinforce these structural defects, to radicalize them further, to make them more conspiratorial---and less adept at functioning in a democratic framework. And in those cells---jail cells and underground political groupings alike---they will now have time to nurse a rather legitimate grievance: the popular overturning of their legitimate victory at the ballot box. Here's hoping tomorrow will be more peaceful than anyone expects. For those who are interested in more information about the sexual assaults in Tahrir Square, about which I wrote the other day, I wrote a piece over at Foreign Policy on women's participation in the protests. Entitled, "Women Stood Their Ground in Tahrir," it opens:
CAIRO — Only one woman sat among the 14 people who flanked General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Egyptian state television as he announced Egypt's new constitutional order. In President Mohamed Morsy's cabinet, there were two -- out of 24 people. Over the last few days, in other words, Egyptian women have been asked to take sides between two organizations in which women are almost entirely marginalized: the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian army. And yet, whenever there are protests, there are women in Tahrir Square -- lots of them. They know the drill. They have seen the videos on YouTube. They know the risks they take when they go down there. During the day, there are usually families in the square -- little girls on their mothers' shoulders, grandmothers. But at night, when the families leave, the harassment begins. Harassment is actually a gentle, almost euphemistic way to describe it. At least 80 women were assaulted last night in the square as the crowd celebrated Morsy's ouster and the army's takeover. And yet, this morning they were still there.
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