A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Black Sunday in Cairo

Though we're in the middle of a three-day weekend, I can't let today's events in Egypt go unremarked. A protest march from Shubra to Maspero, protesting the recent attacks on churches, dissolved into chaos afrer the marchers were fired upon. Something like running fights seem to have ensued, with military police reportedly firing on the demonstrators. At least 24 are officially dead and there are rumors of more. The Prime Minister has gone on TV in the middle of the night to warn of hidden plots against the homeland by unnamed influences, and has denied the clash was sectarian. All in all it seems to be the deadliest and most ill-omened day since the departure of Mubarak.

I think this is a critical moment for the hopes of the revolution. A descent into sectarian violence now could provide the Army with an excuse for slowing, rather than speeding up, the transition: and given the role of the military police today, one cannot rule out the idea that the Army is trying to provoke violence to provide just such a pretext. In any event, PM Sharaf's remarks about sinister influences has a disturbing undercurrent of suggesting the Copts are somehow alien to Egyptian society. I suspect things will be clearer by tomorrow, but as of now I see no silver lining to this particular dark cloud over the revolution. Unless it forces all the forces in society to realize that they are playing with fire in a dynamite factory. Not a good day.

As valuable as Facebook and Twitter may be, they also have a tendency to magnify and spread unconfirmed rumors or downright provocation. I'm going to be cautious till I have a clearer understanding of what happened.

Meanwhile, here are early takes by Issander El Amrani; by Zeinobia; and by Margaret Litvin. Some of the video:

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