Farah El-Akkad asked around about who was responsible for all the violence
Whether you are a Muslim Brotherhood member, a liberal, a Salafi or a “couch” party member, at the end of the day we are all under the umbrella called “Egypt”. However, the increasing rate of violence has led many people to focus on only one party and exclude others, neglecting those who may seem to be taking part in violence and are seen as “guilty as charged”, says Mohamed Mamdouh, a Muslim Brotherhood activist, “but are in fact victims of the ongoing violence Egypt is unfortunately witnessing.” Mamdouh believes the media has played an enormous role in affecting people’s views on what is going on in Egypt nowadays; making people doubt each other. “No matter how much we disagree, we should not doubt each other’s good will and that we all want the best for Egypt,” adds Mamdouh.
Sadly, many people have been led to believe the violence that is going on is only against certain parties. Nadia Safi, a mass communication graduate and member of Shabab Al-Ikhwan (Brotherhood Youths) says, “I am subjected to daily verbal insults from colleagues in my workplace just because I belong to the Muslim Brotherhood.” Safi is one of many people who have been dealing with abusive behaviour just because they support President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist. “Though I am not technically a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and I totally avoid discussing politics, all my friends think I am a boogieman just because I support Al-Ikhwan,” Sherif Awad says.
Awad is also one of the very few people who support Al-Ikhwan but was present with his anti-Ikhwan friends during last November’s Al-Ittihadiya protests in Heliopolis. “I wanted to see what was really going on with my bare eyes, and as a resident of Heliopolis and a member of its club, I couldn’t stop myself from joining protests to know the truth.” Awad explains there were many others like him, people who supported Morsi and were subjected to verbal and physical abuse from other protesters when they explained their opinion. “Me and a bunch of other guys were kicked out of Al-Ittihadiya district after some protesters found out we supported Morsi. It felt like I was all of a sudden deprived of speaking up and had no right to have a say in what was going on because I was simply an Ikhwan as one of the protesters shouted in my face. My reply was “No, I am just a normal Egyptian who wants to see a better Egypt.”
Safi blames the media for not tackling the issue differently during clashes between activists and those who “claimed to be from the Muslim Brotherhood”. She declares “most media stations did not state how many people were killed from the MB during these clashes when in fact not less than 10 MB members were killed. How is it that members of the MB attacked other members?”
Awad recounts, “I was present that day and many peaceful demonstrators were attacked by thugs who clearly didn’t care about their affiliation”. The same goes for Salafis who are also put into the same category as the MB and so is anyone who supports Morsi. Karim Seifeddin, a member of the Salafist Nour Party, believes that people are always making wrong assumptions about anyone who supports Morsi and that the media goes with the flow. “But violence doesn’t differentiate between one person or another. When it destroys, it destroys all.”
Alternatively, activists have been subjected to extreme violence to the extent of being brutally stripped and dragged on the streets. Soha Eissa is a revolutionist who was dragged and beaten by police forces at Al-Ittihadiya last November. “I don’t see any difference between Mubarak’s regime and Morsi’s. They are two faces of the same coin”. Eissa believes that “we have all been victims of the Ministry of Interior which does not differentiate between a liberal and an Islamist. They beat you anyway.
“Why did this revolution erupt in the first place? “I demand the restructuring of the ministry and I will keep fighting for a better Egypt until my last breath,” Eissa says.
No one can disagree with all the excesses of the Ministry of Interior during the revolution, in the scale of events that followed but on the other hand, policemen cannot be denied as Egyptians who also have rights that need to be met. Hussein Maged, a senior police officer tells us, “It may be hard to believe but we are all in the same boat. We are subjected to each and every kind of verbal abuse people can imagine but above all we must restrain ourselves” he says. Maged explains that the mental abuse policemen are subjected to is not “at all” presented by the media “particularly low-ranking policemen who directly deal with violence and are in the face of fire”. Research suggests that 62 per cent of Egyptian low-ranking police officers suffer from various kinds of mental disorders because of the violence they have had to deal with and have been exposed to since 2011.
“It’s a game called democracy and we are not familiar with its rules,” says Alia Hassan, a psychology graduate and an MB supporter who believes this is a normal phase “because democracy is new to us and no one will ever agree on one person. It’s only human”.
Hassan thinks all parties should put themselves in each other’s shoes. “We must stop doubting each other’s good will and integrity in our fight for a better Egypt because we will all lose this fight if we did not unite and find one stable common ground,” Hassan clarifies. Hassan spoke about an initiative called “Us” which she is starting on Facebook next month. “It focuses on the violence that has been affecting all Egyptian parties and how to fight different violent acts and address a common call for dialogue between the people, away from political parties,” says Hassan. “I think all various sects should stop violence and stop accusing the other side of causing it. No one has the right to play the role of the victim because we are all guilty as charged — from TV presenters to police officers, to people who circulate rumours and feed on gossip, we have all caused the situation to erupt, all of us.”