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A Divided Nation, Blood On The Streets: The Voices Of Cairo

Cairo on Friday
Cairo on Friday
Francesca Paci

CAIRO In the wake of the deadly army crackdown on supporters of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, La Stampa spoke with Egyptians of different backgrounds and viewpoints. Here is what four of them had to say:

Alfred fears Islamists want Egypt to be the next Syria

“Every time I try to stop my hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood, they do something so terrible that I give up. We Liberals are concerned about the generals’ role, we’re afraid the old regime might come back. But during the clearing of the Rabaa Al Adawiya camp Wednesday, I saw Islamists attacking the headquarters of Southern governors with real weapons. In the meantime, they burned seven churches and expelled the nuns.”

Alfred Raouf, a 33-year-old technical consultant, did not go to Tahir Square to support the interim government as he did in the past week. “I’m not happy about Rabaa’s events. I would have preferred a peaceful ending,” he says drinking a beer in his living room and thinking about his blog, on which he characterized Morsi’s fall a week ago as a “coup.”

But despite interim Vice President Mohammed ElBaradei’s resignation after the crisis, Alfred cannot back Morsi supporters. “They’ve always tried to keep Rabaa Square out of the conflict, showing it as a peaceful place full of women and children. But in the past week I saw them using machine guns during clashes. It’s terrible, and I know I’ll change my mind a thousand times again, but what can we do? The Brotherhood is a military organization and now they don’t stand a chance. They’re trying to turn Egypt into the Syrian hell, but they won’t succeed. Egypt isn’t Syria. The domestic situation is different, and so is the international issue, because there is no foreign actor involved like Russia or Iran in Syria.”

Alfred is depressed. He feels trapped between the Islamists and the army just like in the weeks that followed Mubarak’s fall. “The Brotherhood is taking us back to the 1980s when the state of emergency was imposed to fight terrorism. Rabaa’s bloodshed is a nightmare. I don’t believe it was necessary, but I can’t condemn the army, not yet. …” So when? “For now, I trust the army, but I know that if they betray the revolution then we will be back into the streets without being afraid of their tanks. We’ve done it before.”

Wagih thinks the West is abandoning Egypt

“The security forces operation in Rabaa was a good thing. Egyptians had been waiting for it because they couldn’t stand the Brotherhood’s occupation and especially us, Copts, are firmly on the side of the great Egyptian army,” says the activist and journalist Wagih Yacoub.

He is obviously displeased with the bloodshed but blames it all on the Muslim Brotherhood. “They wanted a fight, and now the Islamists and their American supporters will all be happy. I find it outrageous that the United States condemned the army’s actions but almost never talk about the churches burned by the Brothers, or about our victims. What do the Copts have to do with the power struggle in Egypt? Yet we are paying the price of the crisis and will continue to do so. Attacks will intensify.”

Wagih predicts troubling days and months ahead for the country, but he doesn’t regret the past. “Mubarak? Never again. He was the one who created the Islamist problem, because instead of resolving it, he used it as a card he could play if necessary. I keep my fingers crossed for the Egyptian democracy, but I’m afraid we won’t see it anytime soon. We’ll get terrorism instead."

Eslam believes Murarek's regime is back

The 23-year-old Eslam Galal doesn’t belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. A year ago he voted for Morsi but only in the second round. In the first round, he chose the “moderate” Islamist, Aboul Fotouh.

But after the bloodshed, he swears he will back in the streets when his work in a call center allows him to rejoin the protests. “The army brought the old regime back to power relying on all the people who hate the Brotherhood. People who fight are now either the ones who want an Islamic Egypt or the ones who want a Liberal country. Of course Morsi made some mistakes, but no one helped him. For instance, electricity was back in the houses the day after Morsi was ousted. And the Tamarod movement? A mystery. It came out of the blue. I can’t remember any of them in Tahir Square in 2011. It’s obvious the army backed them.”

Eslam will keep protesting, but he is pessimistic. “I wish I could leave the country as soon as possible. We’re not used to democracy. We’re ignorant. Whoever is the next president will have the people in the streets within a few weeks. It will take 10 years for the democracy to be established in Egypt, and in the meantime we might massacre each other.”

Mahmoud says 2,000 families are asking for revenge

“It’s a massacre. I carried in my arms at least 20 friends, four of them were already dead, the others had their throat, forehead, eyes ... bleeding like fountains. ... Police officers and soldiers attacked us with gas bombs and then with kalashnikovs. They were like crazy people shooting at point blank range or from airplanes. The streets are full of corpses, and we’re not even able to collect them all. There are at least 2,000 victims.”

The 43-year-old electrician, Mahmmoud Sheimeshn, was at Rabaa Al Adawiya Square, which was occupied for six weeks to defend the “vote of the people” and “the legitimate president, Mohamed Morsi.” Mahmoud’s story is a testimony fresh from the frontline.

“We’ve been peaceful so far, showing the world families taking part in sit-ins, children playing football, but now it’s all changed. We sent the women back home. Only the people who could fight stayed in the streets.” Is it a declaration of war? “We are throwing bricks, and building barricades. We don’t have weapons. If I had seen some these weeks I would have left. We did not want to fight. We did not fix the election results in 2012. Since Monday the army has been throwing flyers at us saying we had 48 hours left to leave the place. Minister of Defense Abdel Fattahal-Sisi had been preparing the coup for one year, and he could count on all the Muslim Brothehood’s enemies — the judges, the media, the old regime. ... They were the ones who sabotaged Morsi’s presidency. But I’m staying here to win or die.”

Anger over injustice, desire to take revenge, religious passion. If it’s difficult to predict Egypt’s future, Mahmoud has no doubt about his own. “We Muslims have faith and Allah on our side, so we’ll win. We’re more courageous because we are believers. We’re not fighting for our wages but for our faith. Not being materialist makes us stronger, and we love death more than they love their lives.”

Mahmoud cannot deny he is also fighting many Mulsim people. Gen. al-Sisi is known for his piety, and his veiled daughter. “Lie. None of them is veiled. Anyway I came here to defend my vote, not Islam. But they want us to look like the bad ones. Secret service agents grow their beards, they put fire to Copt churches or kill people and then post the videos on YouTube to put the blame on us. It will end in a terrible way. There will be a civil war. Violence can’t just stop after 2,000 victims. Their families are asking for revenge, and they are so numerous. You will see what will happen in the coming hours.”

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In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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