Fisk Reports From Cairo
The Future for Egypt is Looking Increasingly Bloody
As impoverished crowds gather in support of Mohamed Morsi, the
well-heeled march behind their images of the General. Hundreds
of thousands support the coup – just as many do not
By Robert Fisk
July 27, 2013
Clearing House - "The
Hundreds of thousands of people turned out outside Cairo’s Rabaa
mosque yesterday to protest against the coup d’état in Egypt,
while hundreds of thousands poured into Tahrir Square to support
their favourite general, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who staged the
Grotesque, unprecedented, bizarre. Call it what you like. But
the helicopters swooping happily over Tahrir, and the line of
visor-wearing riot police and troops standing opposite the
Muslim Brotherhood’s barricades, told their own story.
Journalists should not be merchants of gloom, but things did not
look too good in Cairo last night.
The saddest thing – the most tragic, if you like – was that the
crowds in Nasr City, close to the airport road where the mosque
stands, were as cheerful and welcoming as the masses in Tahrir
who regard their opposite numbers as “terrorists” rather than
supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the legally and democratically
elected President of Egypt who was overthrown by the army three
weeks ago. The tens of thousands of Egyptians crossing the Nile
River bridges or sweating in the 40C heat on the highway to the
airport were so happy they could have been heading for a
But there the jollity ends. The Muslim Brotherhood men and women
carried Morsi’s picture and had painted Stars of David on the
military barracks near the mosque. The Brotherhood had piled
thousands of sandbags around their tent encampment and piles of
stones to hurl at anyone trying to move them. But the soldiers
down the road – also, it has to be said, cheerful and quite
friendly – were holding automatic weapons beside French and
American-made armoured vehicles, and they also held wooden
batons and were flanked by policemen in shoddy black uniforms.
It looked as if they were only a few hours away from moving in
on the Brotherhood, and no matter how many bearded men were
reading the Koran on the roadway – and they were quite literally
doing that – it was difficult to imagine the coming hours being
anything but deadly.
One point that stood out – and it may be unfashionable to say so
– is that the Brotherhood supporters were generally poor and
looked poor in their grubby abayas and plastic sandals. Some of
the Tahrir demonstrators, who were truly revolutionaries against
Mubarak in 2011, trooped over the Nile bridges waving posters of
General al-Sisi. And one has to say, painful as it is to do so,
that the sight of well-heeled people holding aloft the
photograph of a general in sunglasses – albeit a wonderful and
very democratic general – was profoundly depressing. What really
happened to the 25 January 2011 revolution?
“We love the soldiers but we don’t need the general,” a scarved
woman shouted near the Rabaa mosque, but Sisi is now a
well-known face, the man who will return Egypt to its true
revolutionary path, if you can forget for the time being that
the first genuinely elected president in modern Egyptian history
is probably incarcerated in one of those barracks we drive by so
blithely on the way to the airport.
But Egypt does need a government. Driving back from Nasr City to
central Cairo tonight, my car was blocked in a traffic jam
because rival families were fighting a gun battle across the
highway. About 1,000 Cairenes had joined in by throwing stones
from an overpass. Two miles further on, a middle-aged woman was
driven down by a motorcycle and lay on the road in great pain.
Many of the drivers who saw her carried on their journeys, the
noses of their families pressed to the window as this lady lay
spread-eagled on the highway in her black dress. The near future
does not look good.
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