Wahab says the general public realized the Brotherhood would send armed civilians to protect its political interests. At the time, she says, people thought: “They’re coming to kill us.” Six people were killed that night.
In the months since, sporadic armed clashes have continued, buttressed by further obstinacy from both sides in coming to a compromise over the country’s political turmoil. Many began to believe the Brotherhood would do whatever it took to maintain its grip on power—this has created an atmosphere of blind hatred.
“Perception is more important than facts right now,” she maintains. “It’s a very basic fear. People are not just afraid of going into the streets, they are literally afraid of being shot in their houses.” It’s a fear felt by just about everyone.
Wahab is one of the few people I know who seems to have compassion for both sides. But on the streets, the divide seems to be growing, fed by state media and private channels, which have targeted the foreign media, blaming them for sympathizing with the Brotherhood, ignoring Morsi’s abuses while in power, and failing to cover the Brotherhood camps alleged violence at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque and Nadha sit-ins. (The Brotherhood is accused of torturing and killing those the group detained over the course of their one-month sit-in.)
On Saturday, the Egyptian government issued a seven-point memo to foreign journalists chiding them for biased coverage “according to a certain political agenda … conveying a distorted image that is very much far from the facts and media coverage. This raises many questions about the neutrality of this media coverage and its goals.” The interim president and Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general in charge of the armed forces, echoed those claims on television. Violence against foreign reporters has only increased. Age-old conspiracy theories that the U.S. government is trying to destabilize Egypt, this time by supporting the Brotherhood, have taken on a renewed urgency.
Mahmoud Salem, a well-known Egyptian blogger who writes under the name Sandmonkey, denounced the uptick in xenophobia on Sunday: “You see, in order for the international media to showcase your side of the story, you actually have to have a side of the story. Your new state needs to have a solid case why it overthrew the old one, which, FYI, is not being made,” he wrote, urging the local media to do more to explain the Brotherhood’s abuses while in power and for Egyptians to stop threatening the foreign press on the streets. But it seems few people got his message—another report of journalists being detained by plain clothed officers surfaced yesterday.
Although the rallies are now smaller, the situation is by no means under control. The government acknowledged that security forces killed 36 Islamists in their custody Sunday night. Meanwhile, militants were reported to have killed at least 24 police officers in northern Sinai on Monday. The response from both sides seems mired in the pattern of blaming the other.
Back in the car, Michael and I had found common ground; we both agreed the January 2011 revolution had ended—the feeling of national euphoria and hope for a better, united Egypt was history. We also agreed the Islamists would never forget last week’s violence. “The revolution may be over, but the terrorism is starting,” he said.