A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Blood in the Streets of Heliopolis: Is the Brotherhood Making its Move?

What happened today around the Presidential Palace in Cairo? It may be a long while before its implications become clear. As I write the casualty count is still confused: at least three dead according to Ministry of Health; four according to press reports, and hundreds wounded. The dead reportedly include both protesters and Muslim Brotherhood/Morsi defenders.

What seems different about today is that whatever else it proves to mean, the Muslim Brotherhood seems to be jettisoning its alliances and seeking to claim power for itself. Remember that Morsi won only 24% of the vote in round one; Morsi's 51% victory margin included plenty of people who thought he was the lesser of two evils. But today it seems to be shedding allies. Morsi's non-Brotherhood advisors are quitting right and left: the newly-appointed head of the committee overseeing the constitutional referendum has quit, refusing to preside over a referendum that has shed Egyptian blood;as have two other key aides.

There are reports that  up to 26 Egyptian diplomats abroad have refused to administer referendum voting in their embassies. And even the Muslim Brotherhood's usual Salafi allies were not out today:

And some reports say he has no non-Muslim Brotherhood aides remaining at the Presidency.

One of the best online/scholarly observers of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khalil Anani, has offered some interesting preliminary assessments:
Even before today's violence, Farid Zahran was asking "Is the Muslim Brotherhood Sowing the Seeds of its Own Destruction?" He even outright calls the MB "faacist" and makes an extended argument to defend the term.

Fascist or no, no one has burned the Reichstag quite yet, but the Brotherhood seems to be portraying what had been a peaceful demonstration outside the Presidential Palace yesterday as a violent provocation, though the only thing that changed today was the arrival of the Brotherhood demonstrators, whose restraint I had prematurely praised because they stayed away yesterday. It almost looks as if a decision was made within the past 24 hours to throw down the gauntlet and take the streets. And the protesters are claiming the Brotherhood supporters — NOT the police, Central Security Forces or State Security —were themselves using teargas, and pellet guns and/or birdshot, as well as the Molotov cocktails used by both sides. I can't confirm this, but where would Brotherhood supporters get teargas? Alarming if true. I'm not endorsing the "fascist" label but it does remind me of something rather 1930ish

There is talk of a Presidential speech tomorrow with "good news," though I'm dubious; the resigning aides said Morsi would not listen to any of his non-Brotherhood advisers, and Anani, who is a sober analyst, feels the Brotherhood leadership, not Morsi, is calling the shots. The seal of the Presidency at right has had scrawled on it, "Down with the Government of the Guide," meaning not Morsi but Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammad Badie.

The conflict has been in the area around the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis, and along Ahram Street and the area known as Roxy Square and Roxy (after an old Moorish art deco theater from a century ago when the suburb was built) (Palace lower center; Roxy to the North running SW-NE):
Many of the videos are disturbing and should be viewed with caution.

Now, because much of the rest of ths post is going to consist of English-language Twitter posts about Muslim Brotherhood thugs attacking peaceful demonstrators, let me let the other side have their say first (though they don't seem to recognize there are two sides, just Brothers and "thugs") (baltagiyya), a word also applied to them by their opponents:

Okay. Now let's hear from the other side. For speed I've only selected English-language tweets, but the Arabic is telling the same basic story. As is often the case when I post Twitter posts, a strong language warning is in order for a handful of these unedited tweets.
Some are complaining the US media (mostly CNN I think) is interviewing onlly Muslim Brotherhood supporrers; they did have an interview with Essam El Haddad, Morsi's Foreign Policy advisor, who's in Washington and thus available,
One TV host did apologize for any role he may have had in electing Morsi:

Well there's that, too. Unless they pull off what appears to be a power grab. It's pretty stupid (or since I already posted a language warning, pretty fucking stupid as he/she says) indeed to stage a coup when you're already holding most of the cards. Unless you're absolutely sure of the Army. Are they? I'm not. But that's an entirely separate post,

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