Armyhelicopters carrying flags on their way back to base after a fly-by over Tahrir square Friday 5 July, flying behind the Baron Hotel, over the Salah Selim road, where Muslim Brothers supporters were gathered to protest. Photo: Mari Norbakk

People in Cairo are split these days. Some blame the army for conspiring against the Muslim Brotherhood in a coup; others on the other hand salute the army, and chant “The People and the Army are One Hand”. Some are more torn, and watch in concern, waiting to see how the army and interim government will manage the transitional period.

By Mari Norbakk, Cairo 09.07.13

“So, when will the next revolution be?” Ahmed asks. “In another two years?” I propose, jokingly. “No, no, before. It’s exponential, you know”. “So, in a year then?” I ask. Ahmed and Mohammad look at each other. “I’m guessing six months?” Ahmed says, looking questioningly at Mohammad. Mohammad nods. “And this time it’ll be what, one day?” Ahmed says, laughing. “No, more like two” Mohammad offers. We all laugh, but we know we are not completely joking.

As we sit at a café in Heliopolis we get news on a TV in the background. There are violent clashes in Abdel Monem Riyad Square, and on 6th of October Bridge, close to the Maspero-building in Cairo’s Downtown area, this night.  The boys tell me they’re frustrated by the Egyptian state television. They supposedly show almost exclusive footage from the anti-Morsi protests and celebration. And not once while we sit there do we get to see footage from El Raba3a El 3Adaweya (the rallying point for the pro-Morsi protests in Nasr City). They say they are concerned for the right to speak freely. None of them support Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, but they are strongly pro-freedom of speech. They believe the clashes are happening because Morsi’s supporters are scared. The boys tell me he believes they are afraid of what will happen to them. They are worried the organization will once again be outlawed and they will be put into prison to be tortured and kept from their families, as some of them have before. The boys’ biggest worry is the closing of the Muslim Brotherhoods TV-stations. Because when the TV-stations are closed, people feel that they have to take to the streets to get attention. “That’s why the pro-Morsi protests moved to the Maspero building” (State-television main offices are located there). “They want to be seen and heard. However it is a stupid thing to do, since it’s so close to Tahrir, it had to come to clashes”.

Keeping neutral
Mohammad tells me he’s struggling to keep neutral. He tells me “of course what has happened with the military’s intervention is a coup”. But, he goes on to say, it is a coup with support rooted in the people. He says he is no longer worried the military will rule and instate military dictatorship. He trusts the military when they claim they do not wish to be involved in politics. However, he feels not enough is being done to start dialogue. He says there are mistakes being done on both sides. He believes if the Muslim Brotherhood, and the pro-Morsi supporters would just accept what has happened and go home, they can be included in dialogue and cooperation with the military and the interim government.

He’s very upset with state-television, and tells me he prefers to watch international news-stations, like CNN these days. (This contrasts with many other Egyptians who claim CNN are against the “Revolution” seeing they demand what happened was a coup, and show pro-Morsi protests and interview Muslim Brotherhood supporters.) He’s upset when he tells me that state-television only brings on so called experts, and “felool”(supporters of the regime ousted in the January 2011-revolution) who talk nonsense. He tells me he was amazed to see very well informed and politically “correct” and informed youth from both sides (pro- and anti-Morsi) interviewed on CNN. He was wondering why state-television could not bring on some people like that. As we have our shisha and our juice we talk about our different sources of information, such as facebook, blogs, different newsagencies and newspapers, TV-channels and twitter. “Twitter is amazing”, Mohammad, and eager tweeter, says. I admit I don’t have an account on twitter. He tells me I need to get on it. What we all have learned through the 2011-revolution and until now is how biased the media is, and how critical one needs to be in search of information. The information offered may be right, but the wording will affect you, and also which information offered, will taint your knowledge and your perspective.

Getting back to how we were joking about the next revolution coming up, the guys seem clear, the military and the interim government are here on the peoples mercy. If they are not efficient, transparent and democratic, the Egyptian people see no problems with staging another overthrow. They are experienced and know the power their presence in the streets hold. They will keep revolting until “we get it right”. For now however, they wait and watch.


The 8th of July
A few days after this scene in the Café, I wake up to learn that there has been a bloody clash in front of the Republican Guard HQ, on Salah Selim road. I start fearing the army has made a huge mistake. As the news come in I think people will start comparing it to what happened at the Maspero massacre in 2011. I remember what my friend, Said, told me on the phone, just the night before:” I’m actually surprised a lot of Christians are happy. Have they forgotten about the Maspero massacre? I can’t understand how people can get this image out of their head.” However, as the day goes on, it seems nobody is bringing up the comparison. It seems people are either pro-MB, and claim the army started firing at the protesters un-provoked; or they side with the army and claim, as another friend, “The events that took place on the morning of 8th of July is a conspiracy by the MB in order to contaminate the image of the army in order to try and gain international support for them to regain power.”

Personally I can’t make sense, and there are reports coming in that pictures of children, supposedly killed at the clash, are actually pictures of children killed in the war in Syria. Also some eyewitnesses claim to have seen snipers in the surrounding buildings shooting at both sides. The army also releases a statement claiming that the shooting was clearly instigated by the protesters, as there were bullet casings on their side.  However, the majority of the killed were people on the street. It seems at this point most people have already picked sides, and the split is being cemented.  What happens next is unclear. I hope bloodshed can be avoided in the future, but, the country is flooded with illegal arms and for an instigator of chaos, the current situation is ripe with opportunity.