As the Egyptian army tries to win the hearts and minds of the people with their "fight against terrorism" campaign, the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters are with each passing day being pushed increasingly against the wall. A number of Egyptians who reject the army as well as the Muslim Brotherhood accuse army supporters of having lost their humanity and the Egyptian media of misleading Egyptians.
The young revolutionary Amr Nazeer, 23, had to bury two of his cousins within a couple of days. They had gone to the Muslim Brotherhood protests to check on the bodies of relatives who had been shot during clashes. One of them was nowhere near the protesters when a bullet struck him in the head. When Nazeer returned to work after the funerals, he heard people saying that those “Muslim Brotherhood terrorists” all deserve to die.
“They didn’t even care that my cousins didn’t support the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s like people over here have lost their humanity, and they’re not even ashamed of it,” Nazeer told Al-Monitor. “That’s why I hardly tell people how I really feel anymore. They just don't get the fact that someone who doesn't agree with the Muslim Brotherhood can also reject the army.”
As a young and well-educated young man with a lot of connections in Egyptian society, Nazeer has witnessed the growing hatred of anti-Morsi supporters with sorrow. According to him, Egyptians are being brainwashed by the army, which is not only fighting in the streets of Egypt, but also leading a hate campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian media is helping the army do so.
Television presenters from ONtv, an independent news agency, said Egyptians should put their humanity aside so the army can take care of all the terrorists in the country. Meanwhile, the Egyptian state channels are running a banner declaring “Egypt fights terrorism” and constantly inviting on speakers who talk up the army crackdown and disparage the Muslim Brotherhood.
The fight, of course, is also playing out on social media. Muslim Brotherhood opponents who support the army feel that justice is on their side because many Egyptians support the so-called fight against terrorism. “I don’t support violence, but all Muslim Brothers must die” and “I thank God for the death of those terrorists” are now statuses on Facebook. Some people have openly called for a "new Hitler,” someone who can eliminate all the terrorists in the country. Such opinions are often shared by well-educated Egyptians who had previously supported the revolution.
Malik, who has relatives in the Muslim Brotherhood but does not support the ousted President Mohammed Morsi himself, was initially afraid to openly condemn negative comments on Facebook, but after a while he could not take it anymore.
“I know a lot of Muslim Brotherhood members who are well-educated, respectable and definitely not terrorists or even violent. How does this move Egypt forward, if hundreds of peaceful Egyptian citizens, whose only crime was their political stance, end up getting killed? The massacre in the name of a war on terror is terrorism in itself. If they can’t digest that, then at least they can try to understand that it will only lead to more violence,” Malik told Al-Monitor.
His friend Zeina el-Hosny, who supported the revolution and the army, disagrees with Malik. She thinks that the Muslim Brotherhood is responsible for attacking churches and civilians. According to her, all Muslim Brotherhood leaders and supporters should be locked up.
“People keep talking about humanity, but I don’t see any humanity among those terrorists. They kill people and destroy the country. I wouldn’t care if they would all end up dead,” she offered.
It is well-known that Muslim Brotherhood supporters were not alone in being attacked by the army. Foreign journalists, ambulance staff and other civilians also lost their lives during the intense fighting. Egypt’s interim government announced on Aug. 17 that the death toll after four days of fighting stood at 888 fatalities.
Nazeer no longer goes out to protest. Instead of protesting in the streets, he distributes posters featuring “OFFtv“ (opposed to ONtv) and an image of Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s face and the word “joke.”
Shareef Ismail, 34, who works in finance, has his own way of standing up against the hate campaign. He spends his evenings documenting the army's attacks and sharing them online, hoping that "the truth" will one day make a difference.
“The Egyptian media cannot be trusted. They’re biased. Funny, because those are the same media who accuse foreign media of being prejudiced. Egyptians think there is a worldwide plot against them and their beloved army,” Ismail told Al-Monitor.
Thousands of people have ended up in jail during the preceding weeks, including Muslim Brotherhood leaders and friends and family members of Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Even Mohamed ElBaradei, the former vice president for international affairs, is facing charges after his resignation during the crackdown. In the meantime, there is a chance that deposed President Hosni Mubarak will soon be released from imprisonment.
“When you look at the history of this country, you will find that this was just an attempt by the army to get the old regime back, the one we had when Mubarak was in power. The lack of education is Egypt’s biggest problem. People don’t know their own history, seem to forget what happened before and believe everything the media tells them,” Shereef told Al-Monitor.
“The attacks on churches are a good example. Most Egyptians only blame the Muslim Brotherhood supporters, but a Coptic priest in Minya told the media thugs were responsible, and that neither the army nor the police helped them,” Ismail conveyed.
He thinks that the government and the army are pinning everything on the Muslim Brotherhood and calling them terrorists, in the hope that they become so. Amr feels the same way, asserting that Morsi supporters will strike back one day if the situation grows worse than it already is.
Young revolutionaries like Nazeer and Ismail consider the army's action against Morsi a coup. Although they do not get a lot of support for what they believe, they are certain that more people will in the future condemn what the army has done. After Mubarak’s ouster, people stood up against the army, too, after they attacked young protesters in 2011. Groups like Third Square, people who reject both the army and the Muslim Brotherhood, seem to have left the stage in recent days.
Nazeer explained, “Only the first 18 days, before Mubarak was ousted, were a revolution. After that it was all a big political game. The real revolutionaries left Tahrir Square a long time ago. They went underground. One day, when the fighting between the Muslim Brotherhood and the army is over, we will come back to stand up against the army.”
Brenda Stoter is a Dutch journalist who writes about Egypt and Syria and about Kurds in Iraq and Turkey. Her articles have been published by Al Jazeera as well as featured in Dutch national newspapers and magazines, including Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Next, Het Parool and Elsevier. On Twitter: @BrendaStoter
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