Notes from a shell-shocked Egypt

Here are links to pieces I read yesterday about the massacre at Maspero on October 9, in no particular order, while above is Rawya Rageh's report for al-Jazeera English last night. A longer post is forthcoming, but the mood in Egypt is one of mourning and suspended life (Cairo felt eerily empty yesterday), with the political outcome unclear. There has been some focus on whether elections will be postponed (SCAF says no), but I think this is besides the point: the real question is whether political parties and civil society will push for genuine accountability (for the military and the state media), and more generally whether the parties and revolutionary movements have the appetite to take on SCAF. More on all this later.

My testimony about the attack that I suffered in downtown Cairo on October 9, 2011 — a heartbreaking account of by Hani Bushra:

At that point, I was alone, and so I began to walk back to Tahrir. I was tweeting at that time. Someone saw me tweeting and came to me. He asked my name and so I said Hani Sobhi, he then grabbed my wrists to see if I had a cross tattoo, and when he did not find it, he asked for my full name. I said Hani Sobhi Bushra. He asked if I was a Muslim or a Christian, and I said that I was a Christian.  

At that point he began to scream for others that he caught a Christian, and people began to gather. They wanted to search me and my bag, and I said that I will not let them, and that it was best to go to an officer. At that point there was about 30 people around me, with some of them punching me on my head.  

I began to walk quickly to the cordon of the police that I had just came from. At that point, someone yanked my gold chain from across my neck and took the cross. All I did was to tell him “wow, you are such a man” and I clapped for him. That pissed the people who were with me, and so someone snatched my phone from my belt.  

I kept shouting at the thief to give me my phone back, and he said that he will give it to me in front of the police officer. By that time, I was being hit from many people, my ankle was sprained and I was called a “Nossrani (Christian)” dog.  

We reached the officer (rank of general), and the first thing that I did was to show him my U.S. passport and told him that I am now under his protection. I told him that I was attacked because I was a Christian. One of the men who is a policeman but wearing civilian clothing began to talk to the general that I was a Christian and that I institigated the mob to attack me and that I am carrying weapons in my bag. The officer, who had seen my passport, told him to shut up. This policeman in the civilian clothing seemed to be the coordinator between the mob and the police.

A firsthand account: Marching from Shubra to deaths at Maspiro by Sarah Carr for AMAY:

It was immediately met with gunfire in the air. As protesters continued moving forwards, the gunfire continued.

Suddenly, there was a great surge of people moving back, and something strange happened. Two armored personnel carriers (APCs) began driving at frightening speed through protesters, who threw themselves out of its path. A soldier on top of each vehicle manned a gun, and spun it wildly, apparently shooting at random although the screams made it difficult to discern exactly where the sound of gunfire was coming from.

It was like some brutal perversion of the military show the armed forces put on for the 6th of October celebration three days before. The two vehicles zigzagged down the road outside Maspiro underneath the 6th of October Bridge and then back in synchronicity, the rhythm for this particular parade provided by the “tac tac tac” of never-ending gunfire, the music the screams of the protesters they drove directly at.

And then it happened: an APC mounted the island in the middle of the road, like a maddened animal on a rampage. I saw a group of people disappear, sucked underneath it. It drove over them. I wasn’t able to see what happened to them because it then started coming in my direction.

Sherif Abdel Kouddous

Egyptian Military attacks Alhurra TV — you can watch remarkable footage from the live studio as the army comes in here, with the presenter staying amazingly cool.

The Last Choice — Sandmonkey:

After engaging in a street brawl where not a single person could tell who is with who or against who, they stopped and started chanting. One team started chanting “The People and the Army are one hand” and the others started chanting “Muslims and Christians are one hand”, thus providing us with the choices that we as Egyptians were told to make yesterday. And then, strangely, both sides at the same time changed their chants to “One hand”, and both sides started chanting that fiercely, stopped fighting each other, and joined each other into one big marsh chanting “One hand, One hand”, and thus showing us that they made the right choice. They were presented with the choice between the Army and National Unity, and they refused to make that choice and collectively and organically made the only correct choice: Each Other. Egypt. In the midst of the battle, they realized on a very basic level that they can’t chose one over the other, and that , even if they have prejudices, they really do not want to fight each other. There is a lesson in that incident for all of us, and it may just hold the key to our salvation.

Ian Black of The Guardian

SCAF asks government to form fact-finding committee on Maspiro violence - AMAY

SCAF offers condolences, blames deaths on provocateurs - AMAY

Fears grow at Egypt’s Coptic Hospital over autopsy reports - Bikya Masr

Egypt religious leaders to hold crisis talks: TV - DNE

☞ Here is the statement by the US Embassy in Cairo:

We are deeply concerned by the violence between demonstrators and security forces in Cairo October 9, which resulted in a number of deaths among both sides.  We express our condolences to their families and loved ones.  We note Prime Minister Sharaf’s call for an investigation, and appeal to all parties to remain calm.

Contrary to press reports, the U.S. has made no offers to send troops to protect Coptic places of worship in Egypt.

Obama urges restraint as Egypt’s Christians vent fury at army after clash

Egypt: Anti-military chants at protesters’ funeral - AP

Egypt’s delaying tactic - WaPo editorial

Factbox: Attacks on Christians in Egypt - Reuters

☞ Finally this video shows pretty clearly a soldier shooting into a crowd: