Syria's Palestinian refugees thought Egypt would be safe. Now they want to get to Europe.
On Friday, 50 Syrian and Palestinian refugees detained in the Montaza II police station in Alexandria, Egypt began a hunger strike. Men, women, and even some children are participating.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees confirmed that they refused food Friday morning, and said that it is in touch with the police and the refugees, trying to convince them to eat.
“Therefore we hope that ... the maximum penalty will be applied, death by hanging, in the hope that this judgment will be carried out on the walls of the Itahadeya presidential palace in the same place that al-Husseini Abu Deif was martyred.”
The uprisings now sometimes collectively called “The Arab Spring” seemed at first like stories about the political and economic empowerment of young people. But in Egypt, after the military removed President Mohamed Morsi from power in July, some youth have begun to look at the events of the last two years in a different light: In February of 2011, President Hosni Mubarak stepped down with millions of Egyptians in the streets.
Syrians refugees thought Egypt would be safe. They were wrong.
Long before the start of the Arab Spring, Syrians in the southern town of Saqba had close ties with Egyptians in Damietta. For generations, the two towns were their countries’ capitals of furniture making, and businessmen and artisans moved back and forth between them. When Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime began driving citizens from their homes, many residents of Saqba found Damietta a logical destination. Some had existing relationships with Egyptians there, and Egypt overall was welcoming toward Syrian refugees.
The generals take on the independent judges
Under former President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians used to say outspoken political dissidents would end up going “behind the sun”—a euphemism that meant you would find yourself in the hands of the State Security Services, and may not find your way back again. A related expression often used during that period was “the walls have ears (that have walls that have ears…)”—it’s the English expression in eternal recurrence. Recently, an Arabic professor in Cairo told me he hadn’t heard either one much in the two and a half years since Mubarak’s ouster.
CAIRO—“O Sisi! O villain! The blood of Muslims isn’t cheap!” protesters chanted. In Arabic, it rhymes. Thousands of supporters of ousted Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi braved the midday August heat and the almost certain violence of the security forces after Friday prayers. Many had come to protest the killings that took place when the military and police dispersed their sit-ins two days ago and to renew their calls for the reinstatement of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. Young men waved open water bottles over the heads of the crowd.
CAIRO–On the floor near the back of the al Iman mosque that today serves as a makeshift morgue, four people—three women and one man—sit cross-legged surrounded by laptops, mobile phones, and bits of paper. Yesterday, the army and police stormed the two sit-ins in support of ousted President Mohamed Morsi with tear gas, bird shot, and live ammunition. Amid the chaos and bloodshed at the Rabaa el Adaweya field hospital, Nahla el Haddad and Alaa Mustapha, ages 25 and 21 respectively, took it upon themselves to collect the names and personal belongings of the dead.
Mislabeling Egypt's dire situation could make it worse
Egypt's situation is dire, but mislabeling it could make it worse.
When the Egyptian army reclaimed power this week, some of its first actions were to shut down three Islamist-run television stations, detain at least five staff members at Al Jazeera's Egypt channel, allegedly for being sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, and order the arrests of 300 Muslim Brotherhood members.