Violence in the Squares

Today was a sad, horrendously violent day for Egypt. Over 100 people have been killed, hundreds more injured; the numbers are still climbing.

My husband and I woke to the sound of helicopters outside and soon learned that security forces were dispersing the thousands of Pro-Morsi protesters who were holed up in two major protest squares around the city – Rabaa Al Adawiyya and Nahda. By the looks of things, they weren’t going to go peacefully. Some protesters had sniper rifles, and suitcases of ammunition, the state news channels revealed. This seems plausible but the local TV news has been so biased lately against the Brotherhood that it’s difficult to trust anything you see anymore.  The army, we noticed, was using live ammunition. It was a bad combination and things were getting bloody, journalists were getting attacked, and there didn’t seem a way out of it.

After watching the news for a few hours and obsessively checking Twitter, we took a walk down to the edge of Cairo University near Maydan al Misaha and saw several tanks and armored vehicles parked behind barbed wire. Some young army officers told me that there were no sit-ins going on in the university, they were just stationed there for security reasons, and an older guy who seemed to be directing the special forces from his lawn chair (the special forces officers were dressed all in black, and were sporting what looked for all the world to be black bandannas) declined to talk to me but did try to shoo us away from the barbed wire. A nearby newspaper seller told me they had been set up there since the morning, but nothing was going on. “All the world is out today,” he said. pointing at the tanks. While every security force officer in the world did seem to be out, most regular people were not. We decided to take this as our cue to head back home and do some work at an air-conditioned restaurant on our block.

While working there, I joined the manager and the waiters in watching events play out on a bridge in Nasr City on a large, flat screen TV.  The manager, Ayman, told me that the Brotherhood were the ones causing all the violence, because they were armed. This seemed like poor logic, since the army has a good deal more weapons. He said he really, really hoped they would leave the squares soon.

Later, we heard about the action happening in Mohandiseen (a neighborhood not too far from us where protesters were attempting to establish a new sit-in and clashing with police and army forces) so we visited a friend who was working from home at a nearby building. From his vantage point on the eighth floor, we could hear what sounded like gun fire and loud, scraping metallic noises, but we really had no idea what we were hearing, which is a little disorienting. ElBaradei resigned, a state of emergency and curfew was announced, and we decided it was time to head home for the rest of the day.

On the way home we bought a few things and I spoke to some more vendors about the bloodshed. All of them, interestingly enough, espoused anti military views. This was a shift from the last few weeks, when almost everyone in our neighborhood seemed to be pro-military and anti-Ikhwan.

One man I spoke with was at the protests in Mohandiseen and said he had seen four protesters shot and killed, and that his ears were still ringing from all of the gunfire. Another man was selling candy and soft drinks and watching a television that he had hooked up outside of his shop; when I asked him what he thought of everything, he looked pained. “Shame,” he said. Shame on who – the army? the protesters? I asked. “The army,” he answered.

The images of all of the violence on TV are numbing after a while. I hope tomorrow is a day of mourning and respite.

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2 thoughts on “Violence in the Squares

  1. Rebecca Loomis says:

    Yes, do stay safe. I know that curiosity sometimes gets the best of us. My Egyptian administrative assistant is returning to Alexandria later this month to join family, and I’m supposed to go to her wedding in January. We’ll see.. we’re all praying for the future of Egypt and its people. Thinking of you….

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